[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----CONN., KAN., OKLA., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Dec 30 10:38:26 CST 2004
Court Lets Defenders Appeal In Ross Case
The state public defenders' office, which was rebuffed in its attempt to
represent death row inmate Michael Ross before his scheduled execution
next month, has won a hearing on the issue before the state Supreme Court.
The high court has agreed to hear the public defenders' case next
Wednesday, The Day of New London reported.
At issue is whether Judge Patrick J. Clifford of Superior Court in New
London erred when he refused to allow the public defenders to represent
"It's so important that we pursue this and make sure that, whatever the
outcome, that it's done properly," said Gerard Smyth, the state's chief
Ross recently fired the public defenders who represented him for 17 of the
20 years he has been in prison. He has retained private attorney T.R.
Paulding Jr. to help him move forward with his execution, saying he does
not want to pursue any more appeals.
The public defenders' office is arguing that Ross is incompetent and is
trying to commit "judicial, state-assisted suicide." Ross has tried to
kill himself in prison three times, officials said.
On Tuesday, Clifford ruled that Ross was competent in making his decision
to forgo any future appeals. The state has set a Jan. 26 execution date.
In their appeal to the Supreme Court, the public defenders argue that the
office was wrongfully denied the right it has under federal common law to
show that Ross is incompetent.
The appeal also alleges that the lower court erred when it refused to
allow the public defenders to appear as a friend of the court.
The state has repeatedly argued that the public defender's office should
not be appointed because Ross already has legal representation.
The public defenders are also participating in a motion filed by Ross's
father, Dan Ross of Brooklyn, Conn. In that motion, Dan Ross is trying to
be appointed as his son's "next friend" in an attempt to halt the
Meanwhile, the Connecticut Civil Liberties Union is entering the legal
fray over Ross' execution, challenging lethal injection as cruel and
(source: Associated Press)
AG seeks reconsideration of death penalty
Atty. Gen. Phill Kline asked the Kansas Supreme Court on Wednesday to
reconsider a recent decision striking down the state's death penalty law.
The request suggested that the court could allow most of the capital
punishment statute to stand and invalidate only a flawed provision that
led to the court's 4-3 ruling.
The provision deals with how juries weigh evidence for and against
imposing a death sentence. It says that if the evidence is roughly equal,
the jury must choose death instead of life in prison.
The court's majority said when the evidence was about equal, the defendant
should benefit. The provision represents cruel and unusual punishment and
violates defendants' rights to due legal process, the majority said.
Kline's request, filed for him by an assistant attorney general, said the
court didn't consider striking down only the provision rather than the
The court stayed its decision last week to allow Kline to pursue an appeal
to the U.S. Supreme Court. Kline spokesman Whitney Watson said such an
appeal would come after the Kansas court considered the attorney general's
The Kansas court ruling, issued Dec. 17, came in the appeal of Michael
Marsh II of Wichita, who was sentenced to die for the June 1996 deaths of
Marry Ane Pusch, 21, and Marry Elizabeth Pusch, who was 19 months old.
The decision, if it stands, also would invalidate the death sentences for
five other convicted murders on Kansas' death row. Another capital murder
defendant, Gary W. Kleypas, had his sentence overturned in 2001 and was
(source: Lawrence Journal World)
Court grants stay for convicted killer
The state Court of Criminal Appeals on Wednesday granted a stay of
execution for a man who was convicted in the 1993 slayings of his former
girfriend and her 2 children. The stay of execution for Michael Edward
Hooper was granted pending the conclusion of his appeal in the case.
Hooper was convicted by a Canadian County jury in 1995 of killing Cynthia
Lynn Jarman, 23; Tonya Kay Jarman, 5; and Timothy Glen Jarman, 3.
A jury sentenced him to die, but a new sentencing hearing was ordered in
2001 by a federal judge and upheld by the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals in Denver.
After a new sentencing hearing, Hooper again was sentenced to death in
October, with his execution date set for Jan. 21.
(source: The Oklahoman)
USA ---- book review -
Dead men walking away from justice - Sister Helen Prejean tries again to
stop the death penalty in America----By Steve Weinberg
When an obscure nun from Louisiana named Helen Prejean wrote the
bestselling book "Dead Man Walking" 12 years ago, she was amazed that her
words could spawn a passionate debate about the death penalty. A year
later, the movie version led to an Academy Award for Susan Sarandon as
Sister Helen and sparked an expansion of the debate. Now comes a sequel of
Prejean's editor said during a recent meeting, "With the publication of
'Dead Man Walking,' we opened the national conversation about the death
penalty. With 'The Death of Innocents,' we're going to catalyze public
discourse that will end the death penalty."
Maybe. But it probably will not turn out to be that simple. The core of
her new book rests on two state-sponsored executions, one in Louisiana,
one in Virginia. Prejean came to know the men convicted of murder, Dobie
Gillis Williams and Joseph Roger O'Dell, when each requested her as an
official spiritual adviser. She became convinced that each man was
innocent, making their executions unimaginably horrible for her.
In the abstract, Prejean's polemic is filled with logic: If there is any
possibility that governments have executed or will execute innocent
defendants, then the death penalty must be abolished because it's
Moving beyond the abstract, journalists like myself who have written
extensively about wrongful convictions understand that innocent defendants
have been executed - before DNA testing could prove prosecutors wrong;
before we grasped the frequency of mistaken eyewitness testimony, false
confessions, and the lies of jailhouse snitches cutting secret deals with
Unfortunately, though, Prejean's reportage is less compelling than her
logic. Her presentation of the Williams and O'Dell cases show questionable
conduct by police, prosecutors, and judges, to be sure. But, after reading
each account, I am uncertain about the innocence of either dead defendant.
That uncertainty, should it exist in the minds of other readers, will make
it difficult to generate new opposition to the death penalty.
For the sake of debate, let us assume for a few paragraphs that Prejean's
instincts are wrong, that Williams and O'Dell were guilty of murder. In
that case, did they deserve to be killed by the state?
This is where the polemic becomes as much faith-based and law-based as
fact-based. Prejean ranges wide, discussing the teachings of her own
Catholicism as well as other organized religions, the intent of the US
Constitution's drafters, the defensibility of dozens of Supreme Court
decisions, the personal moral codes of court justices such as Antonin
Scalia (her preeminent whipping boy) and Harry Blackmun (her judicial
Are state-sponsored executions always morally wrong, even when a guilty
defendant has committed a heinous murder, sometimes combined with sexual
degradation before or after the homicide? Yes, Prejean says. For her, no
sound reasoning, on any level of abstraction, can support the death
Her new book is almost certain to promote reflection rather than harden
positions because Prejean commands respect. She left a comfortable
upbringing to join the Sisters of St. Joseph of Medaille. Next, she left a
comfortable position within her religious order to live in squalor,
assisting poverty-ridden, nearly hopeless urban residents left in the
backwash of politicians' empty promises. She answered affirmatively when
asked to counsel the condemned, despite knowing she would be haunted by
nightmares the remainder of her life. Risking calumny, she also began
counseling the families of murder victims, despite the hatred some family
members directed at her for befriending murderers.
Unlike most participants in the death penalty debate, Prejean has mingled
with every type of person involved, including the prison wardens and the
guards who actually extinguish lives under color of law. Because of her
actions and the impassioned yet thoughtful words arising from those
actions, she continues to deserve an audience.
Steve Weinberg is a freelance investigative journalist who writes
frequently about the criminal justice system.
The Death of Innocents: An Eyewitness Account of Wrongful Executions
Sister Helen Prejean----Random House310 pp.
(source: Christian Science Monitor)
More information about the DeathPenalty