death penalty news-----NEV., ALA., OHIO, S.C., USA/JAPAN
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sun Jul 11 00:05:30 CDT 2004
NEVADA----impending execution // volunteer
July 22 execution set for strangler
A Nevada death-row inmate who says he no longer wants to pursue any
appeals has been scheduled for execution July 22.
Terry Dennis was convicted by a Reno jury for the March 1999 strangling of
Ilona Straumanis. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to die by a
"Basically, I took a life, and I'm ready to pay for that with mine," said
Dennis, 57, when he abandoned his state court appeal in March.
Prisons Director Jackie Crawford set the date after U.S. District Judge
Phil Pro rejected a petition on July 6 by Reno lawyer Karla Butko to file
an appeal on Dennis' behalf, saying she lacked the status, in view of the
defendant's opposition to continuing the fight. But Pro authorized Butko
to take the appeal to the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.
Bob Wieland of the attorney general's criminal division said the San
Francisco appeals court set a tight schedule to hear the appeal. Butko's
opening brief is due Monday, the attorney general's answer Thursday, and
her reply brief is due July 16.
Dennis would be the 11th Nevada inmate put to death since the U.S. Supreme
Court reinstated the death penalty in 1977. The most recent Nevada
execution was Lawrence Colwell, 34, put to death March 26.
All but one of the inmates - Richard Moran - abandoned further appeals. He
was executed in March 1996 after exhausting all his appeals.
And all but the first to die, Jesse Bishop in October 1979, were put to
death by lethal injection. He was the last man to die by cyanide gas in
Daryl Mack, 44, was set for execution in February, but that was halted by
Washoe District Judge Jim Hardesty after Mack and his lawyers decided to
continue his appeals. Mack is convicted of murdering 2 Reno women.
Dennis killed Straumanis in a drunken rage at a Reno motel after the two
had spent several days partying. His lawyer argued Dennis is mentally ill
and an alcoholic. He said the case doesn't warrant a death sentence, and
that the prior crimes used to support execution were up to 20 years old
The prosecution said he had planned to kill the victim all along and told
investigators the woman was "prey" to him.
(source: Nevada Appeal)
Alabama has oldest inmate with execution date set
At 74, double-murderer James Barney Hubbard, the oldest person on
Alabama's death row, also would be the nation's oldest inmate executed
since the U.S. Supreme Court permitted executions to resume in 1976, a
death-penalty historian says.
Hubbard's execution by lethal injection for killing a Tuscaloosa woman who
befriended him is set for Aug. 5 at Holman Prison near Atmore. Assistant
Attorney General Clay Crenshaw said Hubbard has exhausted his appeals
after 27 years, but he has been near execution before only to win a delay.
Hubbard's attorney, Alan Rose of Boston, through a spokesman declined to
comment on any renewed appeal and did not respond to an e-mail inquiry.
Hubbard, who has maintained his innocence during the lengthy appeals,
recently was moved from Donaldson Correctional Facility in Bessemer to
Warden Grantt Culliver said Hubbard spends his time reading and watching
television. He hasn't exercised outside, but he has participated in a
prison religious group.
Bill Hayes, a Florida-based capital punishment historian, said Hubbard
will be the oldest by far in the current series of executions that date to
1976. He said 24 inmates in their 60s have been executed nationwide in
The U.S. Supreme Court, in its 1976 landmark ruling, reinstated the death
penalty by upholding new death penalty laws in Florida, Georgia, and Texas
as constitutional. The court also held that the death penalty itself was
constitutional under the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and
ended a 10-year moratorium on executions in which reforms were completed.
Hayes said the oldest person executed in the 20th century was 83-year-old
Joe Lee of Virginia in 1916, but Larry Traylor, a spokesman for the
Department of Corrections in that state, said Lee's actual age was in
dispute and he may have been 68.
But there have been at least 16 others in their 70s and 80s executed,
according to Hayes' research.
Nationwide, about 3,400 inmates await execution in the 38 states that
allow capital punishment.
A survey by The Associated Press in death-penalty states found at least
two states - California and Arizona - with inmates in their 80s with no
execution dates set. California has about 650 inmates on death row, the
nation's most clogged. Arizona apparently has the nation's oldest -
88-year-old Viva Leroy Nash.
Several other states have inmates in their 70s awaiting execution.
The oldest inmate on Indiana's death row is Richard D. Moore, who turned
73 on June 5. On the only federal death row, also in Indiana, the oldest
prisoner is 52 years old.
In Florida, John Vining, 73, has been through the federal court system
once and had new appeals denied by the Florida Supreme Court on May 20.
William Cruse, 76, was convicted in the slayings of six people in 1987.
However, he was declared mentally incompetent in 2002. The oldest inmate
Florida has executed was 72, in 1951.
The oldest in Texas, with 456 death row inmates and frequent executions,
is 66-year-old Jack Smith. Since 1982, the oldest offender executed in
that state was 66.
Ohio has one 74-year-old and one 78-year-old inmate, each early in his
federal appeals process and not nearing execution.
In Alabama, Hubbard's age is not an issue for Tuscaloosa County District
Attorney Tommy Smith, who prosecuted Hubbard for the killing that put him
on death row. Hubbard wasn't elderly when he killed and Smith said the
issue is the "unconscionable delays" on appeals that allowed him to stay
"You need to get to a final point expeditiously," Smith said.
Hubbard first went to prison in 1957 for a second-degree murder conviction
in the death of David Dockery in Tuscaloosa County. He was released in
1976 and killed again the next year.
His 2nd victim, 62-year-old store owner Lillian Montgomery, was shot 3
times and robbed of her gold and diamond wristwatch and about $500 in cash
She had befriended Hubbard and "sponsored" him to gain his release in
1976, Smith said. Hubbard had moved into her home next door to the store
she ran on U.S. Highway 82, according to court records.
In a police statement, Hubbard said he had been drinking whiskey with
Montgomery and claimed she committed suicide. Prosecutors introduced
evidence that she couldn't have fired the fatal shots on Jan. 10, 1977.
Hubbard was twice convicted in her death. An appeals court overturned the
1st conviction. But he was again sentenced to death at retrial and last
year the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review it.
The victim's son, Jimmy Montgomery, 66, a Tuscaloosa businessman, said he
and his sister plan to attend the execution.
"I hope it will be over," Montgomery said. "He shot her with a pistol I'd
Another son, 58-year-old Johnny Montgomery, a Birmingham-area real estate
agent, doesn't plan to witness the execution, saying he feels "powerless"
over what goes on with Hubbard and has never communicated with him.
"One time I could have taken care of this guy with my own hands if they
let me," the younger brother said in a telephone interview. "God has given
me peace with this. I have forgiven him."
Alabama's last execution was Aug. 7, 2003, when Tommy Jerry Fortenberry
died by lethal injection.
(source: Associated Press)
Family prepares for execution of killer
Stephen Vrabel still refuses to say why he shot his girlfriend in the
head, then stuffed her body in his refrigerator 15 years ago.
During an interview Friday at the Mansfield Correctional Institute, Vrabel
wouldn't discuss the circumstances leading to the shootings of his
girlfriend and their 3-year-old daughter, Lisa, but didn't deny killing
them. He is scheduled to be executed on Wednesday.
Vrabel said he doesn't owe anyone, including the family of his girlfriend,
Susan Clemente, an explanation.
"I have nothing to say to those people," he said.
For Clemente's family, the reason she was killed is no longer important.
They simply want Vrabel to be executed.
Seventeen members of Clemente's family and two close family friends from
Naples, Fla., plan to travel to Lucasville for Vrabel's execution
Wednesday. Vrabel dropped his appeals and asked to be put to death.
"I'd rather be dead than be alive in prison," he said Friday.
The tight-knit Clemente family has relied on each other to live through
their grief. They're doing the same to get through Vrabel's execution.
6 family members will witness the lethal injection, the maximum number the
state will permit, including Susan's father, son, 2 brothers and 2
"This could have tore all of us apart, but it didn't," said Linda Aey,
Susan's sister. "We just helped each other. We're close and we love each
Anthony and Norma Clemente have spent 49 years in the house where they
raised Susan and their 4 other children. It's in a Struthers neighborhood
of modest, well-kept homes that don't reflect the tough economic times in
the Youngstown area.
Struthers is the same suburb where Vrabel shot 29-year-old Susan and their
daughter on March 3, 1989, with a handgun he bought that day. Prosecutors
never established a motive.
On Friday, Vrabel said he bought the gun to protect his family after
hearing that strangers were walking through his backyard and the woods
near where they lived.
"The notion that I purchased that gun with the intent of murdering my
family, I just tell you that's not valid," he said.
At the time, Vrabel told police he didn't know why he shot Susan. He said
with their 3-year-old daughter "freaking out" at the sight, he shot her in
the head, figuring it was best because her mother was dead and he was
going to jail.
He fled their apartment, but returned days after the killings and placed
Susan's body in the refrigerator and Lisa's in the freezer along with her
favorite stuffed animals, a bear and a bunny.
Vrabel said Friday he had hoped to slow their decomposition and increase
the chances they could be resuscitated.
"Part of the reason for the bodies in the refrigerator was a belief that
they would come back to life," he said. "Now I don't know if that was from
Vrabel continued to live in the apartment for a month. During that time,
he completed final exams in 2 courses he was taking at Youngstown State
University. He got an "A" on his sociology exam.
The bodies were discovered when Susan's brother-in-law Michael Aey went to
the apartment to collect overdue rent money. Vrabel was driving in
suburban Cleveland when he heard of the discovery. He stopped at a church
and confessed to a priest and then to police.
Vrabel was always a quiet man, according to the Clemente family. They said
Susan seemed to be happy during their relationship. The family never saw
any potential for violence.
"You never saw that in him," said Norma Clemente, Susan's mother.
After spending 5 years at a psychiatric center, Vrabel was ruled competent
to stand trial in 1995 and was convicted of 2 counts of aggravated murder.
A divided Ohio Supreme Court upheld Vrabel's death sentence by a 4-3 vote
last year. Chief Justice Thomas Moyer argued that Vrabel didn't fall into
the category of killers for whom the state's death penalty was reserved
because of his mental health problems.
Vrabel, 47, would be the second Ohio death row inmate to voluntarily
abandon court appeals to speed his execution since the state resumed
executions in 1999 with Wilford Berry, who was called "The Volunteer."
Ohio has executed 11 other men since then, including four this year.
Vrabel has 1 witness attending the execution, his sister, Karen Kovalt.
She could not be reached for comment. Vrabel told a psychiatrist in
February that she respects his decision to drop his appeals.
Last week, the Ohio Parole Board unanimously recommended that Gov. Bob
Taft not spare Vrabel's life. Taft can let the death sentence stand or
reduce it to life in prison.
Susan Clemente is remembered by her family a shy woman who always had a
smile on her face. She was an athlete who set track records at Struthers
High School and loved the outdoors.
Her daughter, Lisa, was a feisty child with curly brown hair.
"We didn't get the chance to see what her personality could have been,"
her grandmother said.
Vrabel said time spent with his daughter was the most satisfying of his
"She was a perfect child," he said. "She was born premature. I don't know
if somehow she sensed how lucky she was to have made it because she was
really tiny when she was born. She was just a happy child. She never threw
(source: Associated Press)
Greenwood school shooter gets reprieve----State Supreme Court orders
The man sent to death row for killing 2 8-year-old girls during a shooting
spree at a Greenwood elementary school has at least one more chance to
The state Supreme Court has ordered a hearing to determine if 35-year-old
Jamie Wilson is competent to be put to death.
With all of Wilson's formal appeals exhausted, this could be his final
chance to avoid the death chamber.
In June, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to hear his case, clearing the way
for his execution. His lawyers immediately asked for a stay, and state
justices granted it last month before setting an execution date, the state
attorney generals office said.
A date has not been set for Wilson's competency hearing, which is at least
several months away.
Wilson's mental state has been an issue ever since Wilson, then 19, killed
the girls and injured seven other students and 2 teachers at Oakland
Elementary School in September 1988.
He pleaded guilty but mentally ill in a bid to spare his life, but a jury
sentenced him to death. In all of his appeals, Wilson's lawyers have
argued his mental illness, including schizophrenia, kept him from
understanding what he was doing at the school was wrong.
"His condition has only gotten worse in prison, his lawyer," John Blume
said. "He's really unable to take care of himself," Blume said.
On death row, inmates say they often have to clean up after Wilson, who
Wilson's lawyers plan to argue he should not be put to death because he
does not understand the nature of his sentence and cannot assist his
They also have said that Wilson is the only inmate in the country sent to
death row after a judge found he was unable to control himself or his
But in court papers asking the justices to reject the stay, lawyers from
the state attorney general's office offered several examples from prison
staff that they say show Wilson knows what is happening in his case.
After a federal judge overturned his death sentence in January 2003, a
prison employee reported that Wilson said he "had a new court case going
on - I might be off death row."
The 4th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals reinstated Wilson's death sentence
about a year later.
The latest delay has frustrated victims of the shooting and their
families, prosecutor Townes Jones said. But they understand the criminal
justice process just has to run its course.
"That's just the nature of the criminal justice process, from a
prosecutors standpoint," Jones said. "It can be very rewarding and, at the
same time, it can be very frustrating."
(source: Associated Press)
Ex-soldier Jenkins fears extradition, execution
Now that repatriated abductee Hitomi Soga has been reunited with her
husband, Charles Jenkins and 2 daughters in Jakarta, attention has shifted
to whether the 3 will come to Japan.
Government officials warn the issue will not be easy to resolve because
the U.S. government has remained steadfast in its expressed intention to
see Jenkins court-martialed for desertion and 3 other charges despite
behind-the-scenes negotiations between the 2 governments.
Soga, 45, has said she hopes her husband and daughters will come to Japan
to live with her. A senior Foreign Ministry official said Friday, "What's
important is how the 4 feel about it," suggesting the government will put
priority on the wishes of the family.
It has been reported that Jenkins, 64, is worried that he will be handed
over to the U.S. government if he comes to Japan. The daughters, Mika, 21,
and Belinda, 18, are also said to be reluctant to come to Japan.
Therefore, the 1st hurdle for Soga is to persuade her family to live in
"Mr. Jenkins is worried about a worst-case scenario in which he could face
capital punishment," the senior Foreign Ministry official said. "We need
to eliminate his fears by explaining past rulings and cases."
Kyoko Nakayama, who advises the Cabinet Secretariat on the North Korean
abduction issue and is accompanying Soga, may try to ease Jenkins'
concerns in this regard, government officials said.
In addition to persuading Jenkins, negotiations with the U.S. government
also are needed.
Chief Cabinet Secretary Hiroyuki Hosoda said Friday: "We can't assume
anything because it involves complicated legal matters. We have sounded
out (the U.S. government) and received negative responses," indicating
there is little likelihood that Jenkins will get special treatment from
the U.S. government such as a pardon or waiver of indictment.
After behind-the-scenes negotiations, the Foreign Ministry has won a
promise from the U.S. government that it will not seek the handover of
Jenkins while he is staying in Indonesia with his Japanese wife and their
But the U.S. government is firm in its insistence that it will seek his
handover if Jenkins comes to Japan--under the Japan-U.S. Treaty on
Extradition and the Japan-U.S. Status of Forces Agreement--to indict him
on desertion and other charges.
Citing the lack of any clause to punish desertion in the Self-Defense Law,
some government officials have said Japan can refuse U.S. demands to hand
over Jenkins because the Japan-U.S. Treaty on Extradition requires that
the act in question must be defined as a crime in both countries.
There is also a strong body of opinion in the government that it would not
be good to have such a confrontation with the nation's key ally.
Another suggestion is for the government to hand over Jenkins first, and
then seek a suspended sentence or pardon from the United States.
A Foreign Ministry official said, "To get leniency from the United States,
Mr. Jenkins must express remorse about deserting."
(source: Yomiuri Shimbun)
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