[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, NEV., CONN. CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 10 16:31:56 CST 2004
High court to hear Mexican's death penalty challenge
The Supreme Court agreed Friday to hear the appeal of a Mexican national
on death row in Texas, stepping into an international debate over the
legal rights of foreigners in capital punishment cases.
The World Court at The Hague ruled earlier this year that the United
States violated the rights of 51 Mexicans sentenced to die, including Jose
Medellin, whose appeal will be heard at the Supreme Court next spring.
The world court, which is the United Nations' highest judiciary, had
determined that American officials should give the inmates "meaningful
review" of the convictions and sentences now, on grounds that the U.S.
government failed to inform their home countries of their arrests and
trials. The world court is charged with resolving disputes between
nations, but cannot force the United States to follow its decisions.
Lower U.S. courts had blocked appeals by Medellin, and justices will
decide whether those decisions were wrong.
The announcement broadens the Supreme Court inquiry into capital
punishment this term. Justices are already considering a case that will
decide if it's unconstitutional to execute killers who committed their
crimes as teenagers.
Medellin was supported in his Supreme Court appeal by dozens of countries,
legal groups and human rights organizations, as well as former diplomatic
leaders and the European Union.
They argued that U.S. officials have disregarded the 1963 Vienna
Convention which requires an "arresting government" to notify a foreign
national of the right to talk with the detainee's consulate or embassy,
and says foreign governments can arrange legal help for their nationals.
It applies to Americans abroad and to foreigners arrested in the United
About 6,000 Americans are arrested or detained each year in other
countries and need consular help to "navigate and understand an
unfamiliar, and perhaps hostile, legal system," justices were told by a
coalition of former diplomatic leaders and nonpartisan groups. They said
Americans would suffer if the United States does not set a good example.
Texas attorneys had argued that it was too late for Medellin to bring the
challenge, because he did not file objections at his trial that the
Mexican government was not told of his arrest and allowed to help in his
Mexico's lawyer, Sandra Babcock, told justices in its filing that
Medellin's lawyer was suspended from practicing law for ethics violations
during the case. Mexico, she said, would have made sure that Medellin had
a competent lawyer and money for experts and investigators if it had known
about the 1994 trial.
Medellin was 1 of 5 gang members sentenced to death for the rape-murders
of 2 teen-age girls in Houston -- 14-year-old Jennifer Ertman and
16-year-old Elizabeth Pena.
Last November, the Supreme Court refused to consider the case of another
Mexican national, facing a death sentence in Oklahoma, who claimed police
and other authorities never told him he had the right to meet with Mexican
consular officials after his arrest. Justices John Paul Stevens and
Stephen Breyer went on record noting misgivings with the decision.
Oklahoma's governor commuted Osbaldo Torres' sentence to life in prison
without parole after the ruling by the world court.
Medellin is among 118 foreign nationals from 32 countries awaiting
execution in America, according to the Death Penalty Information Center.
53 of those people are from Mexico, which does not use the death penalty.
The jurisdictions with foreign nationals on death rows, according to the
center, are: California (43), Texas (27), Florida (22), Arizona (5),
Nevada and Ohio (4 each), Louisiana (3), Pennsylvania and the federal
government (2 each), and Georgia, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Oregon
and Virginia (1 each).
The case is Medellin v. Dretke, 04-5928.
(source: Associated Press)
NEVADA----new death sentence
Man sentenced to die for slayings----Victims' family praises jury in
jewelry store case
After jurors sentenced 46-year-old Avetis Archanian to death and started
to file out of the courtroom, the daughter of one of the women he killed
stood up and said quietly, "Thank you. Thank you."
The jury, which had convicted Archanian in less than an hour for the fatal
beatings of 65-year-old Elisa Del Prado and 86-year-old Juana Maria
Quiroga, needed less than 2 hours to decide his fate.
As had been the case throughout the 5-day trial, Archanian showed no
emotion when the sentence was announced. He only briefly turned to his
family in the courtroom. His face appeared blank and pale.
After thanking the jury, Quiroga's youngest daughter, Nitika Brown,
wearing a memorial button saying "I love you in my heart," turned to
Archanian's son, Avak, who was sitting with Archanian's wife and other
relatives. With tears in her eyes, Quiroga told the 19-year-old, "I feel
On the steps of the courthouse minutes later Brown said she didn't believe
in the death penalty, but the teen's father was given "the right
"In this case any other verdict would have sent him (Archanian's son) the
wrong message, that you could do something like this and get away with it.
For the sake of the son I'm happy with the verdict."
Elisa Del Prado's son and Quiroga's grandson, Johnny Del Prado, said the
death sentence was appropriate because Avetis Archanian "didn't have any
"I just feel he got what he deserved and in my heart I always felt he
deserved the death penalty because he treated them so horribly," Del Prado
Archanian, who worked part-time as a jewelry repairman at the victims'
store in downtown Las Vegas, used a hammer and a ring-sizer to kill the
women in November 2003, authorities said. A videotape recovered from the
store recorded Archanian's apparent attack of the 2 women, and DNA
evidence, from blood that had been on Archanian's shirt, pants, shoes,
gloves and exterior of his car linked him to the victims.
Johnny Del Prado, who has run his family's store since the slayings, said
"we will never forget about my mother or grandmother and always remember
them with a smile on my face."
Archanian's family left the courthouse without commenting, as did
Archanian's lawyer, William Grayser. When the individual jurors were
polled on the verdict, and every one said death was the chosen penalty,
Grayser threw his pen down on the defense table and put his hand to his
The jurors had the options of death, life without the possibility of
parole, life with the possibility of parole after 40 years and a fixed
term of 40 to 100 years in prison in sentencing Archanian.
It's unclear if Archanian could have avoided the death penalty prior to
Although District Attorney David Roger said no offer was ever made to
Archanian, he did say after Archanian's attorneys asked him if there were
"any deals on the table" prior to the beginning of the trial.
Roger, who took the unusual step of prosecuting the case himself, said he
told the defense lawyer that as a "starting point, if their client pleaded
guilty to all the counts life without the possibility of parole might be
discussed, but I wasn't sure I would accept it or the family would."
The district attorney said the issue quickly became moot because after
meeting with Archanian's wife and attorneys because Archanian said he
would not plead guilty to the charges.
Roger commended the jurors "for doing their civic duty as it's certainly
not an easy thing to sentence someone to death."
(source: Las Vegas Sun)
Opponents of death penalty rally at Capitol
About 100 opponents of the death penalty marched from Hartford Superior
Court to the state Capitol Friday to protest the scheduled execution of
serial killer Michael Ross.
Carrying placards, including some that read "The Death Penalty is Murder,"
the group called for a repeal of the state's capital punishment law.
Robert Nave, the executive director of the Connecticut Network to Abolish
the Death Penalty, said they are concerned that if Ross is executed, it
will become easier for the state to put others to death.
"I believe that Connecticut has been a beacon of light in our
civilization, and I would hate to lose that status," Nave said.
Ross is on death row for four murders in eastern Connecticut in the 1980s.
He has admitted killing eight women in Connecticut and New York.
His scheduled Jan. 26 execution would be New England's 1st since
Connecticut executed Joseph "Mad Dog" Taborsky in 1960 for a series of
murders and robberies.
The protesters were joined at the rally by at least one person holding up
a sign in favor of the death penalty. Francis Niwinski Jr., 56, of
Bristol, whose brother Joseph was murdered in 2000, is hoping the man
convicted in that case is sentenced to death next week.
"What do you do with trash?" he asked rhetorically. "You bury it."
Legislation is expected to be introduced into the General Assembly when it
convenes Jan. 5 that would abolish capital punishment in Connecticut,
although Gov. M. Jodi Rell has said she will veto it.
Rell, who supports the death penalty, announced this week that she will
not give Ross a reprieve.
State Rep. Jim Amann, D-Milford, who is expected to be the next House
Speaker, said he does not expect a repeal to pass. Connecticut already has
one of the most restrictive death penalties in the nation, he said. The
state allows a capital charge only under certain circumstances, such as a
multiple murder, a murder committed during a sexual assault or the killing
of a law enforcement officer.
Getting the death penalty in the state, "is like winning a gold medal with
a broken foot, it is almost impossible," he said. "We are not going to
become Texas. There will be no execution of the week."
(source: Associated Press)
Slow death----Endless appeals of capital cases
A San Diego judge sentenced David Westerfield to death last year for the
abduction and murder of Danielle van Dam, his 7-year-old Sabre Springs
neighbor. If the 51-year-old convicted killer is like the average inmate
on California's death row, his date with the executioner won't come for
another dozen years or so.
In fact, "the leading cause of death on death row is old age," according
to Ronald George, chief justice of the California Supreme Court. In a
meeting yesterday with the Union-Tribune editorial board, George lamented
that "the process" of administering justice to convicted killers like
Westerfield "is not working ideally."
Since the Legislature re-enacted the death penalty a generation ago,
California courts have sentenced more than 600 criminals to die. Yet,
since California resumed executions in 1992, only 10 killers have received
Justice George explained that the reason the average stay on California's
death row is so inordinately long, the reason so few death row inmates
actually are executed, is because California goes far beyond most states
in providing "due process." Unlike most other states, California
guarantees capital defendants highly qualified defense attorneys at the
trial court and appellate levels, at no personal expense to the defendant.
These defense attorneys must have extensive experience in capital and
other serious cases. They receive public funds to conduct their own
investigations and to hire expert witnesses.
What's more, under state law, even when a jury votes to sentence a
defendant to death, the trial judge has the authority to overturn the
sentence if he feels the jury's decision was improper.
Moreover, every death penalty case is automatically appealed to the state
Supreme Court. And capital defendants are, of course, allowed to challenge
their convictions at every level of federal court.
The labyrinthine process of carrying out death sentences amounts to
"justice delayed" for families of murder victims who see endless appeals
by those convicted of taking the lives of their loved ones.
Marc Klaas received a letter last month explaining the latest delay in
executing the man responsible for the 1993 abduction and murder of his
12-year-old daughter, Polly. "We've passed the 11th anniversary of my
daughter's murder," he told the Reuters news agency. "We've passed the 8th
anniversary of the day he was sentenced to die. Yet his appeal has not
even been done. It has not even been filed."
It is an injustice that Polly Klaas' killer will spend more years on
California's death row than the little girl spent with her family. The
same goes for Westerfield, who almost certainly will spend more years
awaiting execution than his 7-year-old victim lived.
The Legislature needs to reform the death pelty appeals process so that it
better balances the due process rights of convicted killers with the
interests of grieving families - like the Klaas and van Dam families - in
seeing the timely administration of justice.
(source: Editorial, San Diego Union-Tribune)
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