[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, IOWA, FLA., CONN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 4 18:53:01 CDT 2004
Investigators discuss prostitute slayings
More than 20 law-enforcement officials learned Friday that 2 to 3 truck
drivers - not just 1 - may be killing prostitutes across the nation.
Authorities came from Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi,
Indiana and Arizona for a meeting in Grapevine to discuss the slayings.
Some of the agencies had one case, while others had several unsolved
files, the Fort Worth Star-Telegram reported in today's editions.
"In no way, shape or form is just one person doing this," said Terri
Turner, a senior analyst with the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation.
"We're continually getting additional cases."
A chart posted at the meeting listed more than 30 cases throughout the
country - 5 of them in Texas.
Investigators previously have said that a female body found in Gray County
near Interstate 40 could be one of the victims.
The most recent case on the chart was June 11, when Vesta B. Meadows' body
was found in Pennsylvania. She was last seen alive at a truck stop in
(source: Associated Press)
Nun's Prayers in Opposing Death Penalty Are Answered, for Now
This was expected to have been a brutal summer for Sister Camille
D'Arienzo. For 6 years, the Queens nun had joined a group of friends in
spiritual friendship with David Paul Hammer, a convicted murderer who was
to be executed in a federal prison in Terre Haute, Ind., on June 8.
Days before Mr. Hammer was scheduled to receive a lethal injection for the
1996 murder of his cellmate, he had given away what few possessions he
had, written his goodbyes and prepared to spend his remaining time with
Sister Camille. She had been one of his spiritual advisers, a true
believer in every sense who had a stubborn feeling that his time had not
yet come. Her friends in an anti-death penalty group in New York worried
about her, fearing she was in denial about the inevitable.
They are not doubting her now.
Mr. Hammer won a stay of execution - his third - five days before he was
to die. And only 3 weeks later, Sister Camille had another reason to take
heart. The New York State capital punishment statute, which originally
prompted her to rally others against the death penalty, was overturned by
the state's highest court.
Sister Camille and her fellow activists are rejoicing, if only a bit,
before regrouping to face challenges to both surprise rulings. Mr. Hammer
faces an October hearing that could clear the way to his execution, and
the New York law will likely be retooled to overcome constitutional
"My intuition's not flawless, but it's good," said Sister Camille, as she
met with other members of her Cherish Life Circle at her home in Glendale,
Queens. "I wish I could be as sanguine about the New York law, but people
who have put their political careers on this issue won't let it go away."
Nor will she. Sister Camille formed her group in 1993, anticipating the
reinstatement of the death penalty in New York State two years later. The
group took up as one of its hallmarks the Declaration of Life, a document
that people could sign to state that if they were murdered, they would not
want their killer to be executed.
The issue remained an abstraction until December 1998, when Mr. Hammer
wrote to her group seeking a spiritual guide for the last weeks of his
life. He had been imprisoned for much of his life and had been serving a
sentence of more than 1,200 years for various crimes, including
kidnapping, armed robbery and attempted murder, when he killed another
inmate in a federal facility in Pennsylvania. The crime was punishable by
Sister Camille said she wound up being his spiritual adviser for a simple
reason: She could not find anyone near his prison in Indiana to do it.
She visited him regularly, along with Sister Rita Clare Gerardot, an
Indiana nun who lives close to the prison. They say they have seen him
change into someone who accepts his crime, but who also embraces his
newfound Catholic faith. He has illustrated a line of Christmas cards that
help raise funds for needy children, and he has been a big brother and
jailhouse lawyer for the other inmates at his prison.
The killing of one inmate by another in prison for life has long been a
classic argument for the death penalty by its supporters, who say that a
stronger deterrent than another superfluous life sentence is needed for
such inmates. Among those who have made that argument are prison guards
who have seen colleagues murdered by inmates.
"We certainly believe that at some point there are inmates who are almost
impossible to control," said Philip W. Glover, president of the Council of
Prison Locals, which represents federal correction officers. "There are
inmates who do change attitudes and behavior. There are some who don't. As
the hopelessness sets in and an inmate has this many years to serve, there
is no real deterrent."
Sister Camille knows that some people would conclude Mr. Hammer's crime
undercuts any argument for life without parole as the only acceptable
punishment for murder. But she and her friends think otherwise, and insist
that he is remorseful and reformed to the point that he would not pose a
danger to others.
Sister Camille said it was not fair to judge a person by his worst act.
"Once you speculate that someone who committed an evil will repeat that
evil, you enter a point of tremendous despair," she said. "Nothing is
worth very much after that. One thing we have to have is hope and
A federal judge blocked the execution when Mr. Hammer's lawyers argued
that the court had improperly allowed their client to drop his appeals
without sufficient explanation. Sister Camille and her friends described
those days as an emotional roller coaster from which they have yet to
recover, especially as he will go before a judge again in October. He has
been transferred to the federal prison in Lewisburg, Pa., for the time
being. Barring a radical departure, his only other hope for a life
sentence is a commutation from President Bush.
Politics was on the minds of Sister Camille and her friends even more in
the past week, when the New York law was overturned. As they sat around a
table sharing meatloaf and Italian bread, they plotted how best to
capitalize on this moment. They plan to enlist various legal and social
justice groups to argue against the death penalty on the legal merits.
"In some cases, you better forget policy, talk about the budget," said
Jean Smith, a lawyer who is part of the group and volunteered to compile a
list of elected officials to be contacted. "The cost of imposing death is
dissuading New York district attorneys from going for it. It's expensive."
Sister Camille perked up.
"I hate to put a price tag on a human being," she said. "But it should be
Ms. Smith smiled dryly.
"Isn't it nice to know it is expensive to kill?" Ms. Smith said. "The
pro-death penalty people are from rural areas. The pitch to them should be
how much it'll take from their little counties."
They know that is a hard argument to make with someone like David Paul
Hammer. But even his case - a tale of abuse, drugs and crime - holds out
the hope of redemption, they said.
"People believe life begins at different points," Ms. Smith said. "But
there's no debate a person on death row is alive. That's pretty certain."
(source: New York Times)
There's the hint of an execution in the Iowa air. It's blowing in from the
north, from Mason City and Sioux City.
The source of it is Dustin Honken, a Britt man who is accused of murdering
5 Mason Citians back in 1993. It involved drugs.
But it's not the State of Iowa that's seeking Honken's execution. It
can't, because Iowa outlawed capital punishment back in 1965. It's a
federal law that allows capital punishment in such cases, and it is the
federal prosecutors who want Honken executed. The trial is scheduled to
begin in a federal courtroom in Sioux City on Aug. 16. Note the irony.
Honken could be sentenced to death by an Iowa jury deliberating on Iowa
soil in a state where the death sentence has been abolished.
The late Iowa Gov. Harold Hughes faced a similar dilemma 41 years ago.
Then, Victor Feguer had been convicted by a federal jury in Waterloo and
sentenced to death for murdering a prominent Dubuque physician. But Hughes
was adamantly opposed to the death penalty and would have commuted
Feguer's death sentence had he the authority, but this was a federal
Hughes followed the only recourse available. He appealed directly to
President John F. Kennedy to spare Feguer's life. In a telephone call that
Kennedy secretly recorded and was made public through the Kennedy Library,
the Iowa governor told Kennedy, "The only basis I could appeal for it (a
commutation) would be that I am personally opposed to capital punishment,
and I really feel that the majority of the people in Iowa are."
The tape recording shows that Kennedy responded by pointing out the
brutality and premeditation of the crime; Hughes countered that he
believed Feguer was so mentally ill that he probably was "not responsible
for a lot of the things he does."
Kennedy quizzed Hughes as to whether anyone knew he had made the call.
Hughes assured him it was not publicly known, and the conversation ended
with Kennedy agreeing to call Hughes back several days later. There is no
record Kennedy ever made that subsequent call, and the execution was
carried out as scheduled.
In his autobiography, Hughes wrote that at the moment of the execution, he
was on his knees in the governor's mansion in Des Moines, praying for
If you examine Iowa's experience with the death penalty very closely,
you'll find capital punishment was abolished simply because of the
opposition that built up over the years. There was no single defining
moment or event, just an accumulation of revulsion.
Some of the opposition had to do with the method. Iowa always hanged and
wasn't able to get it right every time. The rope snapped in a 1924
hanging, and in 1945, William Jarrett's jugular vein was severed - with
Hughes felt capital punishment was premeditated murder, "Each execution,"
he said, "demeaned human society without protecting it."
And even those governors who allowed an execution to go forward often
weren't comfortable with it. They regularly faced grieving, begging
relatives, hoping for a last-minute reprieve.
"I don't think any governor ever relished that responsibility," said the
late George Mills, the venerated journalist who covered 16 Iowa governors.
"I think it was something they just hated."
The governors' angst was sometimes shared by an odd constituency - Iowa's
sheriffs. Iowa never relied on some itinerant, anonymous professional
executioner to carry out its state-sanctioned hangings. Instead, according
to Iowa law, that responsibility fell to the sheriff of the county where
the trial had been held. Black Hawk County Sheriff H. T. Wagner, after
hanging Edward "Buddy" Beckwith in 1952, said, "It is a job no sane man
would want to do."
Another sheriff, Polk County's William Robb, who was also an ordained
minister, almost quit his job over his two executions in the 1920s. His
hanging of Eugene Weeks on Sept. 15, 1922, so unhinged him that he took
refuge in the warden's house for an hour before he was composed enough to
answer reporters' questions.
"It was my sworn duty to execute this man, and what I have sworn to do,
I'll ask no one to do for me," he told reporters as if he was trying to
justify his behavior to himself.
The newspapers of the day were filled with speculative stories about
whether Sheriff Robb would be able to execute again. He assured everyone
he could - and would - and on the designated day at the designated time 2
months later, he was able to hang Weeks' accomplice, Orrie Cross.
Several of Iowa's wardens were also deeply bothered by the death penalty.
Warden Percy Lainson, in charge of the Iowa penitentiary in Fort Madison
in the 1940s, sounded a lot like an early day Camus.
"The hanging isn't the bad part," he said. "It's the waiting for days,
then hours that's bad."
And judges were sometimes sickened by it. Judge John Tinley, who witnessed
Allen Wheaton's hanging in 1938, said $10,000 wouldn't be enough to bring
him back to witness another execution.
Gov. Tom Vilsack has regularly stated that he adamantly opposes capital
punishment, but should Honken be found guilty and sentenced to death,
don't expect to see him calling the White House to seek a commutation. The
reasons that won't happen are too numerous to mention.
(source: Ames Tribune)
Death row appeal denied----Florida's high court won't overturn a
conviction for a man who ordered 2 Land O'Lakes High students shot.
The state Supreme Court on Thursday denied Faunce Levon Pearce's appeal of
his 2001 murder conviction and death sentence.
Pearce, 42, is on death row at Florida State Prison in Raiford for his
role in masterminding the 1999 execution-style shootings of would-be drug
couriers Robert Crawford III, 17, and Stephen Tuttle, then 16.
The Land O'Lakes High School students got involved in a drug deal and lost
Pearce's money. Pearce, angry that the teens lost $1,200 that was supposed
to buy drugs, held them hostage in a Land O'Lakes mobile home before
summoning gunmen, ordering the boys into a car and driving them to a dark
stretch of State Road 54, where they were ordered from the car and shot.
Crawford died. Tuttle survived a bullet to the head and testified at
Although he did not pull the trigger, Pearce was convicted of 1st-degree
murder in the commission of a felony and attempted 2nd-degree murder.
When he sentenced him, Circuit Judge Maynard Swanson called Crawford's
death "a gangland execution."
At his appeal hearing before the Supreme Court in August, Pearce was
represented by appointed attorney Steve Herman, before Herman joined the
Public Defender's Office in Dade City.
Herman argued that the defense should have been allowed to challenge the
testimony of witness Heath Brittingham by showing a tape of earlier
statements he made to investigators, that Pearce's actions were not
calculated, and that the boys weren't kidnapped.
The court rejected all arguments and took the added step of comparing the
conviction and sentence of death to the outcome of similar Florida crimes.
"Pearce's death sentence is also proportionate to other cases where the
persons who were the "masterminds' or dominating force behind the murder
have been sentenced to death, even though they did not actually commit the
murder," justices wrote in their opinion.
Pearce has never admitted guilt, and before he was sentenced to death, he
wrote a letter to Swanson to "skip all the games and sentence me so I can
get my appeals going."
Pearce's cohort, Lawrence Joey Smith, 26, was the gunman and was also
sentenced to death. But in January the Supreme Court ruled that Swanson
had misinterpreted the law in remarking that in light of a jury's
recommendation of death, he had no choice but to hand down that sentence
Swanson also should not have considered one witness' remark that Smith
claimed to have killed before, the Supreme Court ruled.
The court sent Smith's case back to Circuit Court to decide whether a new
sentencing phase would be in order. The court upheld Smith's conviction,
so the most lenient sentence he could receive would be life in prison. A
preliminary hearing is scheduled for this month.
(source: St. Petersburg Times)
Death Penalty Phase Of Case Begins
Connecticut's 1st federal death penalty hearing in recent history was
marked Thursday by somber words from lawyers on both sides and tearful
testimony by the friends and family of Wilfredo Perez.
"You've made a judgment on one side of his character here, and it's not a
pretty picture," attorney Michael Sheehan told the panel of nine women and
3 men who pronounced Perez guilty Tuesday in the contract killing of
Hartford gang leader Teddy Casiano. "It's not the full picture."
Sheehan and co-counsel Richard Reeve projected onto a large screen in the
courtroom photographs of Perez as a young child, dressed in holiday best
alongside his sister and brothers. Through the photographs jurors watched
Perez, now 43, grow up.
There was the photograph of him taking his 1st communion, his hands
clasped in prayer. There was another one of him at 18, alongside his wife,
and yet another of him holding his then 2-year-old son, Christian. The
photograph of him with Christian was taken after Perez had raced to
Florida to gain custody of the child after allegations of abuse by his
estranged wife's boyfriend.
Christian Perez, now 18, talks daily on the phone with his father, who has
been in prison - serving time for running a cocaine ring - since Christian
Christian Perez wept as he said his father encourages him to do well in
school and obey his grandparents, who are raising him. Juan Perez -
Wilfredo Perez's father - sobbed as he testified through an interpreter
that he needs Wilfredo's continued contact with the family "because
Christian spends all the time crying."
The jurors appeared to be riveted by the testimony, and stoic. U.S.
District Judge Janet Bond Arterton impressed upon them the gravity of
"You are called upon to make a unique, individual judgment about the
appropriateness of sentencing another human being to death," Arterton told
them at the outset of Thursday's hearing. "This is not a mechanical
Assistant U.S. Attorney David Ring told jurors in his opening remarks he
would have few questions for the various defense witnesses. "I fully
expect it will be very difficult for you to hear their sorrow," Ring said.
"They're entitled to have their say."
What few questions Ring had reminded jurors that Perez was pouring cocaine
into the community, and profiting immensely, even as two of his brothers
Tracey Beaudoin, Perez's girlfriend and housemate at the time of the 1996
drug bust, said Perez's family meant everything to him.
"I love him to this day," Beaudoin said. "He was just a good man. He
treated me like a queen. There was nothing I wanted for."
Ring on cross-examination established that Beaudoin used and sold
marijuana. "You said you wanted for nothing," Ring said. "Where did his
money come from?"
"From drugs," Beaudoin replied.
Perez's sister, Nellie, said that as children, she and her younger brother
planned to be a nurse and firefighter respectively, and talked about how
they would save people. She said he was always helping people, giving them
money or taking care of bills. She said he wanted to make it in business
so their father could finally retire.
Nellie Perez worked for her brother when he opened Perez Automotive on
Newfield Street in Hartford in the early 1990s. She said she also learned
at that time that Perez was dealing drugs. "He told me he was thinking
about getting away from it. He just wanted to get the business going. He
knew our parents would be devastated."
Instead, Perez increased the volume of his drug business, moving several
kilograms of cocaine monthly, according to testimony by his former
confidant and "runner," Ollie Berrios. Berrios said Perez paid the men who
killed Casiano with 6 wads of cash - $1,000 each, bound by a rubber band -
the same way Berrios would package cash from drug sales and deliver it to
Casiano and Perez - former close friends - were warring over drug turf and
debts when Casiano was gunned down as his car idled at a red light less
than half a mile from Perez Automotive. Casiano had 1st been lured to the
garage for a chat, according to testimony, then followed by 2 men on a
The passenger fired repeatedly into Casiano's car and body as the driver
pulled alongside his car.
One of the most forceful witnesses Thursday was Greg Villegas, who met
"Wil" Perez and his brother, Tony, at the Otisville Federal Prison in New
York as Villegas was starting to serve a federal sentence for firearms
possession, after serving a state sentence for armed robbery. Villegas
said he had a lot of trouble doing his state time because he was a "hard
head" who had trouble dealing with authority figures. His transition to
federal prison was not going well when the Perez brothers "kind of took me
under their wing. They said the way I was going wasn't the way to go.
"I saw the way they acted and stayed out of stuff, and it helped me do the
same," said Villegas, who said Wil Perez treated the correction officers
with respect and got the same from them. When asked why he was testifying
, Villegas wept and said, "to try to help Wil."
Villegas' mother, Jessica Marquez Gates, testified she could see the
change in her son. "It wasn't all about him," she said. "He asked more how
I was doing." She knew her son was a changed man when she asked him at
Christmas what book he wanted sent from a publishing house and he asked
that she send the book instead to Tony Perez, because his brother had
recently been transferred to a different prison.
"What they did was heroic," Gates said. "They had nothing to gain. They
made a family with Greg that he desperately needed in jail."
The hearing is scheduled to resume Tuesday, and jurors could begin
deliberating Perez's fate later that day.
(source: Hartford Courant)
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