[Deathpenalty]death penalty news --- USA, N.Y., ILL.
j_sommer at gmx.net
Mon Jul 19 15:33:56 CDT 2004
death penalty news
July 19, 2004
The Death Penalty: A Capital Idea!
I would venture that the question over which Americans are most
passionately divided isn't abortions or even whether or not Julia Roberts
has any sex appeal, but the issue of capital punishment.
Frankly, I don't understand the position of those who are opposed to ending
a life for taking a life. I mean, aside from murderers and their cohorts,
the criminal defense attorneys, why on earth would anybody object to
society's ridding itself of its most vicious predators?
There are those people who argue that an execution is the same as a
cold-blooded murder. That is such a loony contention that only a pinhead
would ever suggest it. A murder, after all, involves an innocent victim;
an execution doesn't.
The other major difference is that murderers are done away with as humanely
as possible. That is an option that their often-tortured and mutilated
victims are denied. In fact, I find it bizarre that in America there are
only two groups that are provided with merciful, painless deaths--our
beloved pets and our most degenerate psychopaths.
There are those, of course, who draw their inspiration from the Ten
Commandments. Thou Shalt Not Kill, they repeat ad nauseam, unaware, I
assume, that they are parroting a bad translation of Thou Shalt Not
Murder. You don't have to be a biblical scholar to appreciate the enormous
difference between those two words. It is fairly obvious that God had no
qualms when it came to killing in a righteous cause. And what could
possibly be more righteous than to take the life of one who has cruelly
taken another's life? Unlike in a war, there is no collateral damage. No
innocent women and children die when a serial killer is executed. On the
contrary, future atrocities are thus prevented.
Some misguided souls contend that life imprisonment is just as effective a
deterrent. This contention is false for any number of reasons. The first
of which is that deterring a possible crime is secondary to punishing an
actual one. But, so long as a murderer is alive, there's always the chance
he'll do it again--thus endangering prison guards, medical personnel and
fellow inmates. Besides, as proven recently by the outgoing governor of
Illinois, there's nothing to prevent a feeble-minded politician from
pardoning and commuting to his heart's content.
But what about those innocent people who, through judicial error, wind up
on Death Row? Would I happily see them executed? Of course not. Every
effort must always be made to guarantee that justice be doled out in our
courts. However, if it were left up to me, I wouldn't let a murderer off
because some court of appeals decided after he was convicted that the guy's
lawyer didn't measure up to Clarence Darrow, or the trial judge had
neglected to tell the jury that the defendant had been spanked when he was
a child--and perhaps that's why he grew up to be a mad dog.
I have heard it argued that the death penalty should be eliminated because
far too many blacks and Hispanics are executed. The fact of the matter is
that far too many blacks and Hispanics commit murder. To use the race card
as a reason to eliminate capital punishment is sheer humbug. Study the
statistics and you'll find this to be one area in which minorities
Finally, I resent it when people use the measure of intelligence or sanity
as a reason not to execute a murderer. The well-meaning argument is that
it wouldn't be fair because the defendant wouldn't have the mental capacity
to assist in his own defense. Particularly where the retarded are
concerned, folks like to argue that to do otherwise smacks of Hitler's
Germany. To which, I reply, the Nazis eliminated such people as a matter of
barbaric national policy. Their victims, no matter how kind and decent
they may have been, were doomed. They were not being punished for their
evil acts. As for the necessity that a defendant be able to assist in his
own defense, I say the only appropriate question is whether he was capable
of murdering on his own.
The way some people troop out to hold candlelight vigils every time the
state executes one of these villains, you'd think they were an endangered
species we were eliminating. Ah, if only they were, what a better world
this would be.
Finally, I am sick and tired of people, including members of the murder
victim's own family, who self-righteously forgive the killer. The only
people who have the moral authority to offer forgiveness are the
victims. And I very much doubt if, given the opportunity, any of them ever
Furthermore, I don't want to hear anyone insist that life in prison is
worse than death. If that were truly the case, those serving life terms
would all be doing the decent thing for once, and imitating lemmings.
About the Writer: Burt Prelutsky is a humorist, movie reviewer, writer for
television series and movies, and author of the new book, "Conservatives
Are From Mars, Liberals Are from San Francisco." His website is at
http://burtprelutsky.com. Burt receives e-mail at BurtPrelutsky at aol.com.
Open Letter to my fellow Catholics in the U.S.A.
from Robert Thompson
This is, according to the teachings of our Lord, brought down to us by the
Church, a proper manner in which to address fellow members of the Body of
Christ. When asked to define my religious affiliation, I reply quite
happily that I am a committed practicing Catholic Christian, and I make no
excuses for being such.
Here in France, it is exceptional for the Church to make any pronouncements
of political matters, and the last time that this happened was when the
Spokesman of our Bishops' Conference, jointly with the Chairman of the
Protestant Federation, the Chairman of the national Muslim representative
body and the Chief Rabbi, clearly condemned all forms of discrimination
based on race, ethnicity or religion. This was in reply to populist
statements made by the Front National (the neo-fascist party, the nearest
thing which we have to your neo-conservatives) which were highly
discriminatory. I feel it perhaps helpful to add here that the whole idea
of "right" and "left" in politics comes from the lay-out of our Assemblée
Nationale (the lower house of our parliament) where the Chairman looks down
from his "perch" on the members sitting in a semi-circle before and below
him. Furthest to the left are the Communists, then (in order) the Greens,
the Socialists, the Union de la Démocratie Française (U.D.F.), the U.M.P.
(the party currently in government, which supports Mr Chirac) and finally
the Front National. I am a card-carrying member of the centrist U.D.F.,
and dislike the dogmatic approach often adopted by the Socialists
(democratic left) and the U.M.P. (democratic right), but many Catholics
belong to each of these parties, as also do some to the Greens. I do not
in any way consider that they are acting against our commonly held beliefs,
but I obviously would prefer them to join me in the U.D.F. The Communists
are close to becoming a totally spent force, but I worry at any support
given to the Front National which regularly shows its enmity towards, and
hatred of, essential Christian tenets. In any case, an essential element
in our politics is that all the democratic parties leave their elected
legislators free to vote according to their consciences when matters of
morality come to be considered, which we consider to be normal and correct.
We look across the Atlantic and see what, if it were not so serious, could
be taken for a tragi-comic "Hollywood B movie". In the White House, or on
his Ranch, we see the archetypal Connecticut Yankee Dude, who was once the
Governor of Texas, with a full supporting cast. There we find the
traditional characters, the hanging judge, Mr Ashcroft, the sly
businessman, Mr Cheney, the slick salesman (and former close friend of
Saddam Hussein), Mr Rumsfeld, and the old soldier who seems to have been
tricked into serving them all, Mr Powell, with the tentacles of the
Mafia-like neo-conservatives winding round, and thereby controlling, all of
You may well ask "What has this to do with our being Catholics, and why is
he writing to us?", and this is a fair question, which I will attempt, in
so far as I am able, to answer.
We have been horrified by the total disregard for the sanctity of human
life, shown by this extraordinary crew. Firstly, when he was still
Governor of his adopted state, Mr Bush was an enthusiastic proponent of the
application of the death penalty, considered in most democratic nations to
be barbarous, especially when it follows trials which fall short of the
minimum standards of what we consider to be fair and just. Secondly, this
same man supports the policies of such extremists as Mr. Ariel Sharon, who
openly boasts of his having ordered the murders of persons who are merely
suspected of certain criminal activities. He also gives his strong
approval to Mr. Sharon's policy of expropriation of Palestinian lands
belonging to our fellow Christians as well as to their Muslim
colleagues. Were you not shocked at the siege endured by the Franciscans
and the Orthodox clergy in Bethlehem? I was, and this mainly Christian
area is steadily being carved up into uneconomic parcels of land which are
being taken away from their owners. The claim that such a wall is
necessary to separate Israel from the rest of Palestine to keep out
terrorists does not bear close examination, since the Israelis could have
built such a wall on "their" side of the Green Line rather than well inside
the Occupied Palestinian Territories. Mr Bush continues to give support,
by way of your money, substantial quantities of arms and constant backing
in the United Nations, to this murderer, who not only admits his crimes but
boasts about them.
This makes it all the more surprising that this man, who ordered the
chaotic invasion of Iraq, thereby causing thousands more deaths of innocent
human beings (including among your own armed forces), should suddenly wish
to make political capital out of abortion. I am against abortion, as I
oppose all unnecessary killing of any human being, but I do not see the
pathetic women who resort to it as being necessarily totally evil, I
consider them to be among the victims of a whole society which has gone far
too far along the road of materialism and has lost touch with basic
humanity. For this reason, I believe that persuasion is a better policy
than legislation in the fight to save lives. As a Lawyer for over half a
century, I can see no moral difference between abortion, capital punishment
and waging an unjustified war against a half-starved people as in Iraq.
This brings me necessarily to the invasion of Iraq, which was roundly
condemned by the Pope since before it started, although I agree that Saddam
Hussein was a monster. Unlike Afghanistan, which was invaded because it
refused to hand over the vicious terrorists who had, among other things,
perpetrated the attacks on your country on 11th September 2001, there was
no excuse for the invasion of Iraq. If the U.S.A. are to wage war
against, and invade, all cruel régimes, why have they not invaded China or
Saudi Arabia to take two obvious examples. The answer is simple. In the
case of China, it is too powerful, and is likely before long to challenge
the present status of the U.S.A. as the world's only super-power. In the
case of Saudi Arabia, it is impossible to say what would result from any
liberation of this highly repressive state, including "interruptions" in
its oil exports. On the other hand, as a result of the sanctions which
had no effect on the ruling clique but impoverished and starved the people,
Iraq was clearly unable to withstand an invasion. However, it would have
been better to leave any such invasion until clear plans had been prepared
for the future of the country and to keep out the terrorists whom Saddam
Hussein had most effectively prevented from entering the country. Please
remember that Mr Oussama bin Laden criticized the Iraqi régime for being
godless and socialist, but, as soon as it was invaded, he claimed that this
showed that Mr Bush was continuing his "Crusade" against Islam.
As a Catholic, I could not in good conscience vote for Mr. Bush or the
tarnished team which backs and controls him, since not only do they have
the blood of innocents on their hands, but also they show no shame or
repentance for their crimes against humanity, and I totally fail to
understand how any genuine believing Catholic can contemplate voting for them.
I remain open, of course, to considering any point which any one of you
might wish to put forward in favor of Mr, Bush and his team, but their
record on human rights and respect for human life is so bad that I cannot
imagine any argument which could persuade me.
It is appropriate to end this missive by wishing to all of you the peace of
Christ, as we do in the Mass, and a great future for your country,
Yours in Christ,
Robert Thompson Robert.Thompson (at) wanadoo.fr is a retire attorney,
living in France. who writes the occasional blog Thoughts from France
Little optimism as lawmakers set to return
State lawmakers are returning to the Capitol this week, but what theyll
actually accomplish is anybodys guess.
Gov. George Pataki and legislative leaders appear no closer to resolving
major issues, including a state budget, than they were when the formal
session ended nearly four weeks ago.
The Senate plans a session day Tuesday. The Assemblys Democratic majority
plans to meet in a party conference that afternoon, but no Assembly session
has been scheduled.
"Theyre coming in Tuesday to deliberate on where they are in negotiations
with the Senate and the governor," said Bryan Franke, spokesman for
Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, D-Manhattan.
Lawmakers left town last month after one of the least productive sessions
in memory. Not only did they fail to complete a state budget, which is now
more than 3½ months late, lawmakers were also unable to agree on how to
respond to a court mandate to increase state aid to New York City schools.
Since then, the courts have added to the lawmakers workload. The states
highest court threw out the death penalty, and a lower court ruled that a
law allowing video lottery terminals at race tracks violated the states
Senate Majority Leader Joseph Bruno, R-Brunswick, said last week that he
plans to deal with both issues this week. Silver hasnt said what hell do
about VLTs, and death penalty legislation is likely to meet with stiff
opposition in his conference.
One thing that may be resolved is the minimum wage. The Assembly has
already passed two bills that would raise the minimum wage, now $5.15 an
hour, to more than $7 an hour.
Bruno has been noncommital about the minimum wage, but he said last week
that it is "something we really have to deal with."
Conservative Party Chairman Mike Long, who opposes an increase in the
mimimum wage, said he believes Bruno is committed to passing it. On Friday,
in response to what he sees as the Senates move to the left, Long withheld
his partys ballot line from Bruno.
Bruno spokesman John McArdle said late Friday that the Senate majority has
not yet decided what to do about the minimum wage.
The Senate also plans this week to pass a $14.8 billion budget extender to
keep state government running until Sept. 12. The current extender expires
Silver, who opposes a six-week extender, said he doesnt plan to vote on
the temporary budget measure next week.
The Democratic National Convention is the following week, so, barring a
final budget deal, the Assembly is not likely to take up the extender until
the last minute.
Blair Horner, legislative director of the New York Public Interest Research
Group and a longtime Capitol observer, said this week could be a bust, but
once legislators get together, they may decide its time to get something done.
"The hope is that there has been enough conversation that they can actually
move the ball forward on a number of issues, including the budget," he said.
(source: Daily Star Online)
Caught on tape
After midnight, in a stark police interrogation room, Francisco Carrion
looked at a video camera and explained how he was so drunk after a night of
partying he stumbled into a random woman's Palatine apartment looking for
something to take.
Startled by the intruder, the woman living there pulled a kitchen knife
from a drawer. A struggle ensued, he said, and she died.
In June, when he took the witness stand at his murder trial more than three
years after the statement was recorded, his story had changed. He didn't
know why he went in the apartment, he said, but it wasn't to steal.
The judge didn't buy the new story and convicted him of murder. The "most
compelling evidence?" Cook County Circuit Court Judge Thomas Fecarotta Jr.
said it was the videotaped statement.
"I have no doubt in my mind looking at that video the defendant gave it
up," Fecarotta said.
Under a groundbreaking Illinois law effective in almost exactly a year --
on July 18, 2005 -- defendants such as Carrion will not face police
questions without also facing a camera.
The new legislation requires all police interviews with murder suspects to
be videotaped, a dramatic departure in the way many law enforcement
agencies -- here and around the country -- operate on their most serious cases.
The Illinois law provides for a few exceptions -- if the defendant asks to
turn the recording equipment off, if recording equipment isn't available or
if the equipment malfunctions. The recording is only mandatory in police
stations, leading some to question how far the statute really goes.
Questions surrounding the fairness and effectiveness of the state's death
penalty system -- where in recent years 13 death row inmates have been put
to death but 18 have been cleared of the crimes that put them there --
spawned the mandatory interrogation law.
Maine and the District of Columbia followed Illinois' lead, also
legislating taped interviews. State supreme courts in Alaska and Minnesota
previously ordered law enforcement agencies to record questioning of those
The four states and District of Columbia are part of a change around the
country in terms of attitude and practice toward taped interrogations, said
Thomas Sullivan, a former U.S. attorney who co-chaired the Illinois
governor's death penalty commission.
"Within 10 years, the majority of police and sheriff's officers will be
recording in felony cases," said Sullivan, who authored a report titled
"Police Experiences with Recording Custodial Interrogations," recently
published by Northwestern University's Center for Wrongful Convictions.
But defense attorneys, many of whom advocated for the law for years, are
still questioning how effective Illinois' law can -- and will -- be.
"As far as it goes, it doesn't go very far," said Scott Slonim, supervising
public defender at the Rolling Meadows courthouse.
In Illinois, the legislature approved the mandatory taped interrogation law
over the protests of police and prosecutors, nervous that a camera's "on"
button would turn talkative defendants off.
Questions were raised about the cost of equipment and the sheer logistics
of implementing recording systems throughout Illinois, a state with roughly
1,200 law enforcement agencies.
Now, more than $800,000 has been spent on digital recording and playback
equipment, said Capt. Dan Roach, an investigator with the Illinois State
Police and a member of the committee deciding how to distribute the equipment.
"We need to get the equipment to the departments with the highest homicide
rates, but we also need to get a thorough geographic distribution of
equipment," Roach said. "It's a huge undertaking."
Each of Illinois' 102 counties will receive, through the local sheriff's
department, a fixed set of digital video recording equipment. The 102
Illinois state's attorneys will receive portable recording equipment that
can be taken to various local police agencies, Roach said.
An additional 50 to 60 pieces of recording equipment were distributed to
areas with higher homicide rates, such as Chicago and Aurora, Roach said.
The committee is hoping to place digital playback equipment in every county
courthouse in Illinois, Roach said.
Questions about equipment and training costs were trumped by the cost of
wrongly convicting people, Sullivan said. He noted that in the Ford Heights
Four case, in which four defendants were wrongly convicted in part on the
basis of false confessions, the group eventually received an estimated $32
"How many rooms can you fit up for $32 million?" he said.
This fall, training is scheduled to begin for homicide investigators
throughout the state on how to use the equipment, as well as how to adjust
their interview techniques to play to a larger audience, which might
ultimately include a jury.
"You have to adjust tactics -- be a little more careful," Sullivan said.
"Don't stand over the person screaming, don't use foul language, don't
touch them (defendants), don't do things like we're hearing about in Iraq."
Slonim questioned if the law as written would go far enough in protecting
He noted that questions can linger about what happens between the time the
defendant is arrested and the time the cameras start rolling for the formal
"I fail to see why interrogations should not be taped from start to
finish," he said. "I'm familiar with the arguments against it, and justice
should trump all those arguments."
During Carrion's trial, he claimed on the witness stand that police told
him he would be deported to his Mexican homeland to live with his mother if
he confessed. Instead, he now faces death row.
"(The police officer) told me he would forgive me; he knew it was an
accident," Carrion said, under oath, to the judge at his June trial. "They
were pressuring me for some time."
On the tape, however, he states that he understood his rights, declined to
have an attorney present and wasn't being pressured, promised or threatened
Ellen Mandeltort, deputy attorney general for criminal justice and a member
of the group putting together the training on the new requirements,
predicted the taped interviews would lead to a decreased number of motions
questioning the validity of confessions, which may expedite legal cases
through the system.
Slonim questioned this, saying there are still going to be defense lawyers
asking what happened before the tape started rolling.
"The new law is simply a start," Slonim said. "It is not, in and of itself,
going to address the problems the law was designed to address."
David Brodsky, Lake County public defender, said the law's effectiveness
would be defined by how police and prosecutors deal with the law's exceptions.
"The defendant's statement is potentially the most important piece of
evidence in a case, sometimes the only evidence," Brodsky said. "When you
think about how they preserve this evidence now, it's ridiculous."
Sullivan -- who surveyed 238 departments in 38 states that are, in most
cases, voluntarily taping interrogations -- predicted that once Illinois
prosecutors, defense attorneys and juries try videotaped interviews,
they'll like them.
His report concluded that defendants do not clam up under the camera's
gaze, and jurors are able to put into perspective proper interrogation
techniques used to elicit confessions.
"It just works to the great benefit of law enforcement," he said.
(source: Daily Herald)
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