[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- KANSAS, PENN., KY., CONN.
j_sommer at gmx.net
Wed Dec 22 13:32:42 CST 2004
death penalty news
December 22, 2004
Kansas Supreme Court Strikes Down Death Penalty Law - Fourteen States Have
Banned Capital Punishment
The American Civil Liberties Union applauded a decision made today by the
Kansas Supreme Court to strike down the state's death penalty law, making
it the 14th state to ban capital punishment.
"Today's development should not surprise anyone," said Rachel King, an
attorney with the Capital Punishment Project. "Our experience in looking at
the death penalty teaches us that it is exceedingly difficult to craft a
system that is both procedurally fair and mistake-free. Without the death
penalty, we hope Kansas will be able to focus its resources on providing
more support for crime victims as well as crime prevention efforts."
On June 24, New York's highest court also ruled that its state death
penalty statute was unconstitutional. Kansas and New York were the two most
recent states to reinstate the death penalty, with Kansas reinstating it in
1994 and New York in 1995. Neither state has executed anyone since
The Kansas Supreme Court struck down the state's death penalty law on a 4-3
vote because it said the law gave the state an unfair advantage over
defendants during the sentencing process. The ACLU's King noted that Kansas
has a history of antipathy toward the death penalty; the state abolished
capital punishment in 1907, brought it back in 1935 and then observed a
moratorium in the late 1950s and early 1960s, when the Republican governor
at the time said, "I just don't like killing people." Today's ruling
vacates all six death sentences in Kansas.
Last year, Kansas officials released a cost study that showed that
prosecuting capital cases costs approximately 70 percent more than
comparable non-death penalty cases. The study found that the median cost of
a death penalty trial and appeals was $1.26 million while non-death penalty
cases cost a median of $740,000.
Dad waits out death penalty fight - Court proceedings and an appeal to the
U.S. Supreme Court keep Douglas Belt's father guessing.
As the father of a death-row inmate, Steve Belt has gotten used to courts
deciding the fate of his son.
He thought the court system was done with such decisions when the Kansas
Supreme Court struck down the death penalty in the state Friday.
It sparked hope that his son, Douglas Belt, 43, could be resentenced to
life in prison.
But three days later, the state court stayed its ruling while the Kansas
attorney general, who supports the death penalty, appeals to the U.S.
"I figured it was too soon to start celebrating," Steve Belt said. "It took
two years to go through (my son's) trial. Waiting is not anything new to us."
The nation's highest court can choose to accept or deny the state's appeal
and is under no time frame to make a decision.
Douglas Belt was sentenced to death Nov. 3 in Wichita for the 2002 murder
of Lucille Gallegos.
Steve Belt, who lives in McPherson, contends his son did not commit the
murder and hopes for his exoneration some day. But that doesn't mean Kansas
should do away with the death penalty, he said.
"I'm for the death penalty," he said. "If my son actually committed the
crime, then the death penalty would be the sentence for him."
Citing a technical error in legal criteria, the Kansas Supreme Court ruled
4-3 on Friday that the 1994 death penalty law is unconstitutional.
If it withstands the appeal, the ruling will likely force a resentencing of
the six convicted killers facing death in Kansas, including Douglas Belt,
making a life sentence the maximum penalty they would face.
High-ranking legislators have said they expect to fix the error in the
upcoming session, which begins Jan. 10.
Such a move would only further the damage caused by legalizing the death
penalty, said Sue Neeley, a mitigation expert in Wichita who has worked on
death penalty cases.
The death penalty adds extra financial cost and emotional pain for the
families of both the victims and the killer, she said.
"People don't stop to think about the ripple effect," Neeley said.
For those who are waiting on death row, not much has changed.
Douglas Belt, for example, is still in a single cell at El Dorado
On Nov. 19, a little more than two weeks after his sentencing, Douglas Belt
He spends 23 hours of the day alone in the cell and has one hour to go
outdoors. When outdoors, he is alone again and in a caged area.
The only other time out of his cell is three days a week when he is
escorted in shackles to a shower area.
He can receive and send mail, including most recently the news clippings
about Friday's ruling from his father.
"Now, I'm going to have to send some new clippings" about Monday's stay,
Steve Belt said.
Steve Belt is waiting for his son to be eligible for visitation, which,
when it is allowed, will be offered through live video feed and not in
person, he said.
Douglas Belt has requested and received several books that help him pass
the time, his father said.
Telephone use is limited. Steve Belt hasn't spoken by telephone with his
son since the Friday ruling and Monday's stay but plans to discuss it at
the next possible opportunity.
My son "has very little privileges at this particular time," he said, "but
he's upbeat in spite of it."
(source: Wichita Eagle)
The death penalty has come full circle again, and it is time to put it
aside. Simply put: It costs too much taxpayer money and too much public
time and attention for it to be worthwhile. Every side has a great argument
in favor of or against the death penalty. All sides are correct at one time
or another, and it is the wide variety of killers that makes no side
correct all the time.
I would suggest that we do away with the death penalty and instead go to
life in prison in solitary confinement. Put them in the smallest cell
allowable for 23 hours a day -- no television, but lots to read. Give them
three square meals a day and one hour each day to exercise outside the cell
block. That's it, for the rest of their natural days.
And then we can exercise our God-given rights to pray with all our might
that God seeks vengeance upon them, as quickly as possible. I will pray
that the victims' families will find it in their hearts to forgive, as
Jesus would do, and move on with their own lives and let the killers rot in
jail for the rest of their lives.
KEN SPEAR, Wichita
(source: Opinion, Wichita Eagle)
D.A. Seeks Death Penalty For Man Charged With Killing Wife - Man Accused Of
Murdering Pregnant Wife
Police say 24-year-old Jonathan Tusa fired several shots at his wife, Dawn,
as she backed out of the couple's Penn township home.
Tusa is charged with homicide and homicide of an unborn child.
Dawn Tusa was two months pregnant.
Police said Jonathan Tusa wanted to end the pregnancy.
Butler County district attorney, Tim McCune, said the case warranted the
State law permits prosecutors to seek the death penalty if a victim is in
the third month of pregnancy or if the defendant knew she was pregnant.
Tusa is being held in Butler County prison without bond and faces a
preliminary hearing January 21.
Kentucky changing some aspects of lethal injection process
Kentucky is making changes in the way inmates are executed a month after a
judge stopped a scheduled lethal injections with questions about the
protocol of the process.
The Department of Corrections filed a revised protocol, or a step-by-step
written instruction on how to carry out lethal injections, with Franklin
Circuit Court last week.
The most noteworthy change is an increase in the dosage of the first drug
used in the three-drug lethal cocktail the state uses in executions.
Instead of 2 grams of sodium pentothal, which is designed to render a
person unconscious, inmates will now be given 3 grams. Just how much
anesthesia is given and how much of the drug actually makes it into the
veins of the condemned is a pivotal issue in a lawsuit challenging the way
the state carries out lethal injection executions.
Two Death Row inmates filed a lawsuit against the state in Franklin Circuit
Court this summer, saying that the state's method of executing prisoners
violated their Eighth Amendment right not to be subjected to cruel and
Department of Corrections spokeswoman Lisa Lamb said the original protocol
probably would have been upheld by the court. But, Lamb said, the new
protocol incorporates some of Franklin Circuit Court Judge Roger
Crittenden's suggestions about putting more information in the protocol to
give guidance to future administrations.
Lawyers for the Department of Public Advocacy said the 11th-hour changes
are a sign that the state's method of lethal injection might be flawed.
"It shows that there are problems with the protocol that need to be
addressed or changed," said David Barron, a lawyer for the Department of
Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr., who was convicted of killing a Lexington couple
in 1991, was set to be executed Nov. 30. But his execution was stayed in
part because Crittenden wanted to hear more evidence on the lethal
injection issue before making a decision.
Bowling is a plaintiff in the lawsuit. The other plaintiff is Death Row
inmate Ralph Baze, whose appeals are nearing an end.
The state has executed one person by lethal injection, Eddie Lee Harper, in
1999. An expert for the Department of Public Advocacy has said that there
was a more than 50 percent chance that Harper was conscious when the third
drug, potassium chloride, was administered.
The protocol has not been made public. The protocol has been filed under
seal in court.
There will be other minor changes to the protocol that Barron and public
defenders say are problematic and could help their case.
If an IV cannot be started on an inmate after one hour, corrections
officers will call the governor, who can decide to call off the execution
and set another execution date.
"In some respects they took steps backward with this new protocol," Barron
said. "The concept of sticking someone with a needle for an hour, that
sounds barbaric," Barron said.
Other changes include having a crash cart on the premises and requiring
that the warden of the Kentucky State Penitentiary at Eddyville, where
executions take place, check the expiration date of the chemicals used in
Last week Crittenden asked that discovery and all depositions be completed
by the end of January. A tentative trial date will be set in February.
(source: AP / Lexington Herald-Leader)
Arguments die hard in death penalty case
Michael Ross is scheduled to die in the Osborn Correctional Institution in
nearby Somers on Jan. 26, the first execution in New England since 1960.
There will be no last-minute pardon from the governor, no new DNA evidence
to exonerate him, no death-bed confession from the real killer. Ross is the
He admits he killed eight women in Connecticut and New York in the 1980s,
and that he raped most of his victims.
In this space in the past, we have opposed the death penalty, arguing that
no judicial system could ever be constructed that could guarantee no
innocent person would ever be executed. Our judicial system, while the best
in the world, is not perfect. As proof, we cited more than 100 cases in
which a death-row inmate was exonerated because new DNA evidence proved his
innocence, a confession was proven to have been coerced or witnesses were
None of those arguments apply in this case. Ross is a serial killer. It is
next to impossible to feel any sympathy for him. We do feel sympathy for
the families of his victims. If one of them were to volunteer to give Ross
the injection that will kill him on Jan. 26, we would not harshly judge his
or her decision. The depth of their loss cannot be felt by others.
Ross himself decided not to pursue any additional appeals to avoid
inflicting more pain on his victims' families.
All that said, Ross should not be executed.
More than 940 people have been executed in the United States since capital
punishment was reinstated in 1976. None of those executions has made
America safer, prevented other acts of violence or spared the victims'
families from further pain. The executions were acts of violence sanctioned
by the government.
Most of the world condemns the United States for its death penalty. The
European Union asked Connecticut's governor and parole board last week to
delay or halt Ross' execution. There are 25 countries in the European
Union. Each believes the death penalty is wrong.
Here at home, public opinion is shifting against the death penalty.
Convicted murderers are not being sentenced to death as often because the
death penalty itself is on trial.
The families of Ross' victims face a lifetime of loss, a burden death
penalty supporters in Connecticut hope will lighten with his execution.
They will be disappointed.
(source: Editorial, The (Massachusetts) Republican)
More information about the DeathPenalty