[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----N.Y., S.C., CALIF.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Fri Dec 17 14:28:16 CST 2004
Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau on Wednesday was a headline
performer at an anti-death-penalty rally all dressed up as a state
He didn't disappoint.
Morgenthau, at the Association of the Bar of New York City, quoted
statistics which he said demonstrated the futility of capital punishment.
He was well-received by a crowd that - like the DA himself - strongly
disapproves of the ultimate sanction.
No doubt they all applauded when the Court of Appeals - New York's highest
tribunal - effectively overturned the state's 1995 death-penalty statute
on constitutional grounds.
And no doubt Morgenthau himself is, umm, dead set against passage of a
capital-punishment bill of any sort - to say nothing of one that would
someday in the distant misty future actually result in the dispatch of a
mass murderer or 2.
Not that the presence of such a law would have any practical impact on
Morgenthau, who dealt with the old statute simply by . . . ignoring it.
As far as he was concerned, the law simply didn't exist.
Scores of cases over the years met the stringent criteria for
capital-punishment prosecution, yet never once did Morgenthau seek the
death penalty. Nor did he ever deign to explain himself.
At least Bronx DA Robert Johnson, equally opposed to capital punishment,
had the courage to come right out and say so.
Gov. Pataki actually superceded Johnson on 1 occasion, appointing
then-Attorney General Dennis Vacco to prosecute a murder case.
Meanwhile, 2 other city DAs - Charles J. Hynes of Brooklyn and Richard
Brown of Queens * overcame their own sincerely held personal opposition to
capital punishment and proceeded with death-penalty cases.
That is, they had enough respect for the law to actually obey it.
Morgenthau, an estimable DA in virtually every other respect, considers
himself to be above this law * and thus free to ignore it.
In this regard, his testimony was more than a little disingenuous. If he
doesn't like whatever new statute might emerge from the process,
Morgenthau just won't enforce that law, either.
And that's simply disgraceful.
(source: Editorial, New York Post)
Doctor say man on SC's death row competent to give up appeals
A psychiatrist says death row inmate Arthur Hastings Wise is competent to
give up his appeals and be executed.
Doctor Richard Frierson says Wise understands his crime and is able to
help his attorneys. Wise was convicted of killing 4 co-workers and
injuring three others during a September 15th, 1997, shooting rampage at
the RE Phelon lawnmower ignition plant in Aiken County.
Prosecutors say Wise had been fired from his job there and picked out
people who had been given jobs he wanted or who had helped get him fired.
He killed Sheryl Wood, David Moore, Leonard Filyaw and Charles Griffeth.
At the hearing in Columbia on Friday Wise smiled and warmly greeted his
Wise has written several letters to prosecutors saying he did not want any
appeals. Frierson says Wise originally wanted to plead guilty before his
trial, but didn't think he could. He was sentenced to death in Beaufort
County in 2001.
Frierson also said Wise does not want anyone to think he is incompetent or
Wise had been scheduled to die in July, but questions about whether he
wanted to appeal blocked the execution.
(source: Associated Press)
Murderer scheduled to die Jan. 19----Federal appeals court grants one last
A San Mateo County judge who found on Thursday morning that a condemned
killer had exhausted all of his appeals scheduled the man to die by lethal
injection next month. By afternoon, however, the U.S. Court of Appeals in
San Francisco intervened and granted the inmate a new appeal.
Donald Beardslee, 61, remains scheduled to die Jan. 19. He has been on
California's Death Row for 20 years, after his conviction for murdering
two young women in 1981 in San Mateo County in what prosecutors said was a
drug- related murder.
On Thursday morning, a San Mateo County judge set the Jan. 19 execution,
saying his appeal rights appeared to have been exhausted.
"Mr. Beardslee's crimes were vicious, heinous and callous," Judge Mark
Forcum said. "I think the victim's families deserve closure after 23
But in the afternoon, the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San
Francisco granted Beardslee's lawyers one last time to challenge his death
sentence, and set a hearing date for later this month.
The court did not issue a stay of execution, however, saying it wanted
legal arguments completed by Dec. 22.
At the time of the killings of Patty Geddling, 23, and Stacie Benjamin,
19, Beardslee was on parole for a murder in Missouri.
Beardslee's lawyers expressed relief at the federal court's action, while
San Mateo County prosecutors were disheartened.
"It's a victory, because it preserved an appeal," said Michael Laurence,
the executive director of the Habeas Corpus Resource Center who was
appointed in October to represent Beardslee in court cases and clemency
"It undermines the state's claim that they are entitled to execute Mr.
Assistant District Attorney Martin Murray said the appeals should be over
"It just is not fair to the families to allow them to believe there is
going to be closure and for this stuff to happen," Murray said. "The court
needs to know the need for finality of their decisions."
Beardslee's legal battles have lasted two decades, and he had lost all his
state appeals and appeared to have lost all his federal appeals when the
Ninth Circuit issued its ruling late Thursday.
At issue now is whether Beardslee should be able to challenge the death
penalty based on earlier court determinations that invalidated 3 out of
the four special circumstances alleged against him. Special circumstances
are the qualifying facts that could merit the death penalty.
The special circumstances that had been tossed out include one count of
multiple murder -- as the same allegation was found to be redundant for
having been filed twice, once for each victim, and 2 counts of murdering a
The courts have since found that witness murders have to involve victims
slated to appear in court to testify, and the facts in the Beardslee case
did not meet the courts' definition.
The defense argues that the jury may have been swayed by the sheer volume
of special circumstances -- most now invalidated -- in coming to a
punishment of death.
The state court rejected the multiple-charge argument as a harmless error.
At one point, the Ninth Circuit had refused to hear that issue. Then, in
July, the Ninth Circuit allowed a defendant facing death a new trial on
the death sentence based on identical circumstances. The Ninth Circuit now
must decide whether Beardslee should be able to appeal in light of the
Besides the favorable court ruling, the defense has cited circumstances
they say make the death penalty in this case unjust. Beardslee suffered a
blow on his head when a tree fell on him while he was in the Air Force.
The defense said the near-fatal blow caused brain damage, as did a car
accident when he was 16. Laurence said that in the double murder,
Beardslee was urged to kill the victims by 2 co-defendants, who were not
sentenced to death.
The death penalty was reinstated in California in 1978, but no executions
were carried out until 1992. Since then, 10 inmates have been executed in
the state, with the last in January 2002.
This is the 3rd time an execution date has been set for Beardslee.
Murray wondered why it took so long for the courts to consider all the
"I understand the need to thoroughly litigate these cases," he said. "But
we can build rocket ships and send a man to the moon in less than 22
years. I don't think it takes that long to read a transcript."
Murray said that on Thursday he met Geddling's daughter, who was 4 years
old when her mother was slain, and she gave him a letter to send to the
governor, who will consider clemency.
"She thinks it's time for closure."
(source: San Francisco Chronicle)
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