[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, PENN., USA, KY.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 8 09:30:05 CST 2004
Man's belief in the Texas legal system nearly killed him
(First of two parts )
What was it about Ernest Ray Willis' eyes?
The district attorney called them "cold fish eyes." One of the women on
the jury thought they looked reptilian.
"They had this emptiness, like an alligator - kind of like something
malignant. Mean. Dangerous but empty," Catherine Collins would recall.
The hollow stare lent the silent defendant the air of a stone-cold killer.
Otherwise, precious little linked Willis to the fire that on June 11,
1986, consumed 2 women in the West Texas town of Iraan.
Convicted nonetheless and condemned to die, Willis stayed more than 17
years on death row before being exonerated and released last month.
Now those brown eyes appear weary, but focused.
Anger occasionally hardens them when Willis describes the injustice that
took nearly two decades to dismantle. The outrage is gentle, though,
compared to when he first arrived in a cell 3 paces long and realized what
The state of Texas had prosecuted him with scant and flawed proof. It had
tried him while he was unknowingly drugged - hence the eerie, vacant gaze
in court. And, after all that, it wanted him dead.
More than once the state set a date for his execution, offered him help
writing a will and asked him to decide who he wanted to hear his last
breath. And, more than once, the justice system changed its mind.
Now, out of more than 950 men and women condemned to die in Texas during
the modern era of capital punishment, Willis is the eighth one exonerated.
Currently reclaiming a life that almost ended on a Huntsville gurney, the
59-year-old is adjusting even the smallest of daily habits.
Comfort behind the wheel of a car returned immediately to the former truck
driver and oilfield worker when he practiced for the drivers' test.
Confidence in his legs came more slowly.
Rarely during the years of incarceration did Willis walk farther than the
prison yard or the showers. Upon release, he felt wobbly when he exceeded
60 feet. Repeatedly, he would reach out to steady himself during his first
strolls in the free world.
His vocabulary also needed fine tuning. The word "here" kept slipping into
conversation when he described death row, as if part of him still was back
in Cell 32 at the Polunksy Unit.
"I catch myself after I do it, y'know," he says, "but it ... it's still
Labor and liquor
Born in New Mexico and raised in California, Willis chopped cotton, picked
grapes and pulled potatoes alongside his mother and three brothers during
summers as a schoolboy.
As a teenager, he migrated from vegetable rows to oil rigs.
Now living in Mississippi, the man who might have been the 42nd prisoner
executed in Texas talks with a slow drawl that suggests more resignation
Mostly, he describes nearly two decades on death row as matter-of-factly
as he summarizes the life of labor and liquor that preceded his
"Really, there weren't no big events," he says. "I mean, I just ... I
worked when I was able to."
Roughnecking and oil drilling paid well, but the wages came at a price.
When Willis still was a young man, a swinging 300-pound pipe knocked him
to the steel floor of a rig.
The fall ruptured 2 spinal discs. Back surgery allowed him to walk again
but never cured the pain.
Alcohol helped dull what the painkillers couldn't soothe.
Sometimes, he binged, once turning a trip to buy a loaf of bread into an
opportunity to purchase vodka and disappear over the state line for 3
"I was pretty wild," he says. "I liked to party and I liked to dance and I
liked to go out and shoot pool and shuffleboard and I wouldn't take my
wife with me."
Ultimately, the booze did more to end six marriages than chronic pain.
Hospital visits far outpaced the divorces. Complaining alternately of pain
and numbness in the back and legs, Willis went 26 times between 1982 and
Then, in April of 1986, surgeons removed a disc. 2 weeks later, in early
May, Willis returned for a second procedure to relieve a nerve pinched by
Still recovering and unable to work, he traveled the following month to
In Iraan, Willis was staying with a cousin, Billy Willis, at the home of
Billy's friends Michael and Cheryl Robinson. The plan was they'd repair
and sell one of Robinson's cars.
They still were trying to find car parts on June 10, when Ernest and Billy
returned to the Robinson house and found Cheryl there with Gail Joe
Allison, 25, of Sheffield and Elizabeth Grace Belue, 24, from San Antonio.
The group passed the evening drinking beer, even after the Robinsons were
arrested for violently quarreling outside the house. The remaining guests
ended up staying over.
At about 4 a.m., a crackling sound and a sour stench woke the Robinsons'
neighbor, Mary Jane Harris.
Harris dialed 911 and, from her dining room window, she saw 2 figures
peering into the Robinsons' house as flames rose over the roof.
One stood wrapped in a blanket. The other was barefoot and in jeans.
Under the blanket, Billy Willis was naked and scraped up. When smoke
blocked his way out of a bedroom, he plunged out of a window and found his
cousin already outside.
Ernest Willis had woken up on a living-room couch. He told investigators
he tried to run through the house until flames forced him to flee outside,
where he banged on windows trying to rouse the others in the bedrooms.
The lead investigator, Pecos County Deputy Sheriff Larry Dale Jackson, was
immediately skeptical. He had 3 weeks of fire-investigation classes plus
two more training with arson investigators in Houston; to him, the fire
Confirmation came from 2 certified arson investigators, a recent addition
to the state fire marshal's office and a former FBI agent who was working
as an insurance investigator.
They believed the charred marks on the floor were "pour patterns," burned
traces of flammable liquid someone had poured inside the house.
Lab tests could find no trace of any such accelerant, but tangential
findings further inflamed suspicions.
A roughly 3-foot-long strip of hose was found in the yard days after the
fire; it tested positive for traces of gasoline.
Additionally, Billy Willis reported walking through the house at about
2:45 a.m., getting a whiff of burning plastic and finding both the front
and rear doors open for ventilation. However, firefighters had found the
rear door locked.
4 months later, a Pecos County grand jury in Fort Stockton indicted Ernest
Willis, the 1st survivor out of the house and the one least injured.
Surprised, Willis took the bus from Oklahoma to surrender and spent the
next 8 months in jail awaiting trial.
"I thought I was going to walk out," he says, "because I thought the
The defendant's blank eyes greeted potential jurors when they walked into
the Fort Stockton courtroom on July 8, 1987.
At first glance, one woman doubted she could be impartial.
"He scares me," Lucy Gonzales told lawyers. They allowed her to sit on the
During trial, Willis never seemed to look at jurors. And he appeared
equally oblivious when prosecutors displayed grim photos of the burned
women, their limbs blackened by smoke and flame.
"I just thought he was the type of guy who really didn't care or he was
vicious," juror Roy Urias recalls.
Willis' principal attorney had been a lawyer for only about three years
when he was appointed to the case. This was his first capital trial, but
Steven L. Woolard quickly realized the emptiness in his client's eyes
Woolard guessed it was the painkillers, told his client to stop taking the
pills and advised Willis to take notes or doodle anything so he would
Had anyone checked medical records at the jail where Willis was held
during trial, they would have found an odd but scientific explanation for
the void in the defendant's eyes.
Along with painkillers for an injured back, the inmate with no diagnosed
mental illness was being given medications normally used to soothe
The excessive doses amounted to a chemical conk on the head.
As Willis sat silently, J.W. Johnson, the district attorney in the 112th
Judicial District, and his deputy prosecutor piled on suspicion, tidbit by
For instance, Willis claimed to have fled the burning house and tried to
rouse the others. Yet the neighbor Harris recalled being roused by the
crackling of fire, not hollering.
Prosecutors acknowledged the case had holes.
No one saw Willis light the fire. No one found any trace of the flammable
liquid that investigators were certain he used to fuel the flames.
And no one knew why a disabled oilfield worker recovering from back
surgery and with no history of violence would wake before dawn, torch the
house where he was staying and kill women he had met only hours earlier.
But Johnson told jurors they didn't need a motive.
"Ladies and gentlemen, this is an animal sitting right down here at the
end of the table, just like one of them pit bull dogs in the back of the
Robinsons' yard. They attack and destroy stuff and you don't know why,"
Johnson said. "You can't get in their mind."
Different details convinced various jurors and stuck with them over the
Several focused on burn marks under a door. Investigators said these marks
must have come from burning gasoline that trickled between the door and
Others would recall how the back door was mysteriously locked sometime
after 2:45 a.m. when Willis' cousin Billy saw it open.
Whatever the reasons, the jury was unanimous before it even began
Deciding on punishment the next day also proved short work.
Dead man pacing
Prosecutors called two witnesses at the trial's punishment phase, and
defense lawyers asked essentially 2 questions.
The main investigators, Deputy Sheriff Larry Jackson and Texas Ranger Joe
Coleman, testified that they had traveled to the towns in New Mexico and
Oklahoma where Willis once lived.
"His reputation was bad," Coleman reported.
No specifics were mentioned, but it was true that Willis had more than
once broken the law. A rap sheet compiled by the FBI listed three arrests
for drunken driving, as well as one for indecent exposure and one for
placing obscene or harassing phone calls.
But there was no history of violence. And the list of people who would
have testified that Willis was peaceful, generous and sometimes even
heroic included not only his brothers and a son, but also an ex-wife, a
former stepdaughter and a former sister-in-law, each related to him by a
different one of his marriages.
Eyewitnesses could have talked about how, during a fishing trip in Haskell
County, Willis had suddenly bolted away. Stripping off his boots, he had
plunged into the water to pull a boy from a car that had completely
submerged after the youth punched the gas instead of the brake while
backing down a boat ramp.
Instead, no one was summoned to testify on Willis' behalf.
Johnson filled the void during closing arguments with a dark account of
"At some time during the night while he was sleeping, these weird eyes pop
open like in some science fiction horror film, and this mind wakes up with
kill on its mind, and the tool he used was arson," the prosecutor said.
"And if he did it once, he can do it again.
"I'm here to tell you, our sociologists will tell you, our psychiatrists
will tell you, when they snap, they snap, and they are not human beings
anymore. They have no utility to us. None."
Inmate No. 000881 arrived four weeks later on death row.
3 paces separated the cell door at one end from the commode at the other.
Hours passed as the prisoner retraced the steps, over and over.
Daylight entered when he eventually moved to another cell, through a slit
about 3 1/2 inches tall and 4 feet wide near the ceiling.
Weeks would pass without Willis looking outside.
Then, on partly cloudy evenings, a ray of orange would splash across the
wall and Willis would stand on his bed and watch until the sun sank behind
Upon his arrival, the medication stopped and as the first months passed,
the inmate realized he had only vague memories of the trial that had put
him in this 60-square-foot purgatory.
So when 53 pounds of trial records arrived in the mail, Willis pored over
the transcript, reading deep into the night under the 60-watt glow of a
lamp clamped to an empty upper bunk.
"It was like reading a novel about myself," he said.
The 30 volumes titled "The State of Texas vs. Ernest Ray Willis" would
prove only the opening chapters of a saga.
Their arrival signaled the start of an appeal process that would add
extraordinary twists about the trial and the house that burned before
But no revelations would be apparent under the midnight glow of a reading
lamp in a prison cell.
When he first read the testimony with a clear mind, Willis made just one
Every page made him angrier.
(source: San Antonio Express-News)
Dodging Death Row
More than a dozen years ago, Doil Lane was convicted and sentenced for
9-year-old Nancy Shoemakers death. Lane now sits on death row in a Texas
prison for a murder there. But there are those who want him removed from
death row and still others want him executed.
Death row in the Livingston Prison in Southeast, Tex. is Lanes home. His
prison photos shows the 43-year-old a little older and with shorter hair
than how most remember him.
Kansans became familiar with Lane when he was arrested and convicted,
along with Donald Wacker, for the kidnapping and strangling death of
Shoemaker in the summer of 1990.
Wichitans searched for Shoemaker for months, passing out hundreds of
fliers with her photo. 7 months later her body was found near Bel Plaine
in Sumner County.
Lane also confessed to killing 8-year-old Bertha Martinez in San Marcos,
Tex. back in the 1980s.
Texas tried, convicted and sentenced Lane to death.
But after 10 years on death row with no execution date set, some say its
time Lanes sentence is commuted to life imprisonment.
In a ruling two years ago the U.S. Supreme Court said this country could
no longer tolerate the execution of the mentally retarded, like Lane.
Tests put Lanes IQ at 65 to 67, placing him at the mental and emotional
level of an 8- to 10-year-old child.
That raises the question with advocates from the mentally retarded, like
Kevin Fish, whether Lane should be executed.
"If somebody has the mental capacity of an 8-year-old, would you execute
an 8-year-old?" says Fish, executive director of the Association of
Retarded Citizens. "Does he have the understanding to know what he truly
Those who watched Lane stand trial, like Don Shoemaker, Nancys uncle, says
Lane knew right from wrong.
"If they dont know it was wrong, if they were that bad off, why did they
hide it so well and get away with it so long and deny it when they were
confronted with it?" says Don Shoemaker.
Nancys father still struggles with the emotions surrounding his daughters
death. He came to Wichita from his Florida home last week to petition the
Kansas Parole Board to keep Lanes accomplice, Donald Wacker, in prison
here. Hes ready to go to Texas to watch Lane executed if that happens.
"Naturally wed like to see them carry them out for Bertha Martinez and
Nancy," says Bo Shoemaker, Nancys father. "I would like to be there to
watch him. Hell, Id even flip the switch 2 or 3 times."
Capital punishment opponents like Wichita attorney Jim Lawing say Lanes
mental retardation becomes significant now since the Supreme Court ruling.
"Theres a lot of money thats expended in the arguing on both sides of
whether or not Doil Lane and others with mental retardation should be
executed," says Lawing.
Millions of dollars he says which would be better spent fighting crime. He
says killers like Lane should stay in prison, but says execution of the
mentally retarded years after the crime is wrong.
Even if Doil Lane got off death row he wouldnt leave prison. Besides a
life prison term in Texas, Lane would have to serve a 40 year sentence
without parole here in Kansas.
(source: KAKE News)
Visions will end in death chamber----Execution likely for killer with
Sometimes Freddie McWilliams has visions.
Long before setting foot in the Harris County Jail, the 30-year-old
robber-murderer dreamed of its menacing steel cages. He dreamed, too, of
the state's Ellis and Polunsky prisons and, after he arrived, was startled
by his precognition's accuracy. But his second sight isn't foolproof.
Never did he anticipate when he broke into a car in a Houston apartment
complex parking lot, intent on stealing it for use in robberies, that its
owner would be asleep inside.
Never did he foresee pumping a .38-caliber slug into the man's head, he
said. Not once has McWilliams taken a dream-peep at the state's sky-blue
Now, reality is poised to overtake the confessed killer's dreams. Unless
he receives a stay - an event his lawyer concedes is unlikely - McWilliams
will be executed Wednesday for the September 1996 murder of Alfonso
Rodriguez Jr., a 39-year-old meat truck driver. He could be the 22nd man
executed in Texas this year and the 2nd from Harris County on consecutive
Although the criminal case 8 years ago was chronicled in a single,
4-sentence newspaper story, which misspelled the victim's name, it drew
attention Friday from Amnesty International, which called on its network
of 1.8 million activists to urge Gov. Rick Perry to halt McWilliams'
Janie Maselli, one of McWilliams' current attorneys, warned that appeals
to save the killer's life are "hamstrung by what happened in state court."
Court-appointed lawyers in the 1997 trial, Don Davis and Jerry Guerinot,
failed to meet with their client, Maselli said, and generally fell short
of properly preparing their case. Lead defense attorney Davis, known for
his success in arguing capital cases, died in 2000. But Guerinot defended
his colleague's performance.
"He really worked it up," Guerinot said. "He read what he needed to read;
he met with Freddie. This was not a real nice case."
Maselli said files from the case were misplaced - another stumbling block
in filing effective appeals. Guerinot responded that he was "sure" Davis
would have kept the records. But, he said, "I don't know where they would
Additionally, Maselli charged that Austin lawyer Daryl G. Weinman
appointed to handle the habeas corpus - a point in the appeals process in
which new evidence may be introduced - did not even hire an investigator.
"She only raised issues from the record," Maselli said.
Weinman did not return phone calls.
'Glimmer of hope'
Maselli said the temporary postponement of the execution of
robber-murderer Dominique Green last week so that 280 boxes of recently
discovered police evidence could be cataloged offered a "little glimmer of
hope" for McWilliams. But when the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals
overruled the delay and Green was executed, that hope faded.
"I don't know if there's anything in those boxes" pertaining to
McWilliams, Maselli said. "One thing I don't do is offer false hope. If
someone like Dominique Green didn't get relief, it's not going to happen
McWilliams' case is further undermined, she said, by his confession to
In a last-ditch effort to save her client's life, Maselli said, she has
petitioned for clemency, a tactic that rarely is successful.
A veteran criminal facing death for what can only be considered the
senseless murder of a hard-working man dedicated to his teenage daughter
and family, McWilliams nonetheless projects the air of guilelessness, of a
man profoundly puzzled by the bad turns his life has taken.
In an interview Wednesday, the killer told of his desperate attempt early
on the morning of Sept. 28, 1996, to force Rodriguez into the trunk of his
Chevrolet sedan. As accomplices Kenneth Adams and Richard Hawkins, both
now serving sentences for the crime, watched, McWilliams and Rodriguez
struggled over a pistol.
"We were struggling," McWilliams said, "and the gun went off and took his
life. I can't truthfully tell whether he pulled the trigger or I did. My
hand was on top of his hand and his hand was on top of mine. It was a 2-or
3-second dance of death, but it seemed to go on forever."
McWilliams panicked; he and the other men fled.
Arriving at the apartment complex in the 3000 block of Ella a short time
later, police found Rodriguez lying on his back in a pool of blood.
Victim was role model
Rodriguez, the product of a tough childhood in the city's East End, was a
role model for his 7 siblings. Although divorced, he was an anchor for his
teenage daughter, Christina. He shared his modest apartment with a
"He had gotten his act together," said his half-brother, Melchor
Hernandez. "He had joined the Job Corps and structured his life. He became
a mechanic, and then he got a job driving a beef truck. He loved that job.
He'd get up long before the sun. He loved his rock 'n' roll music. He was
a nice guy. He was a hard worker, a taxpayer. He never got in trouble with
No one knows why Rodriguez was sleeping in his car.
Rodriguez was the second member of his family to be murdered - his brother
James Rodriguez, 20, was fatally shot in a barroom brawl 24 years ago -
and his death hit his siblings hard.
"I have nothing to say to him," Hernandez said of McWilliams. "I'd like to
bust a cap in his head. I'd say, 'Listen to this!' just to get his
attention, then just pop a cap."
A promising childhood
Like his victim, McWilliams, the oldest of 5 children, was reared in a
family of modest means. In his youth, he showed artistic promise and did
well in school, his sister, Misty Jones, said.
He was a talented writer, too, and his prison-penned poetry, bearing
titles such as Hard Brick and Steel and Too Young To Die, has been posted
on the Internet by death penalty opponents.
But by his midteens, McWilliams was selling drugs on the street. He
dropped out of high school in his junior year, and his first robbery
conviction, stemming from the shotgun stickup of a pizza delivery man,
came in 1993 at age 19.
During the next few years, court records indicate, McWilliams was involved
in robberies of a supermarket, convenience store and tavern.
McWilliams' sister said his family was unaware of his illegal activities.
"He was well-mannered," she said. "We trusted his word. We'd ask him where
he was going, and he'd say, 'Oh, I'm just hanging with my friends.'"
Behind the Plexiglas window of the death row visiting cubicle, McWilliams'
body told the story of his legal ups and downs. Fluorescent lights glinted
from his gold-capped teeth. Crude prison tattoos snaked across his muscled
"Everybody always had big plans for me," said McWilliams, the father of
two grade-school-age children.
"It seems, though, that life was always against me. The forces of life
were against me."
McWilliams claimed he joined Adams and Hawkins in the robbery simply as a
one-time way to raise money to pay his probation fees. Court records
suggest the fatal crime was the last in a string of robberies.
McWilliams was arrested several weeks after Rodriguez's murder.
McWilliams said he has accepted the likelihood of his death Wednesday.
"I've never been scared of anything. The only thing I've feared in my life
is dying alone."
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Testimony in Texarkana murder case begins next week
Opening statements to the jury are scheduled for Monday in the trial of a
Texarkana man accused of killing three employees at the Outback steakhouse
restaurant in Texarkana.
Stephon Walter, 25, is being tried in Collin County, just north of Dallas.
A jury of eight men and 4 women, plus alternates, has been seated to hear
hear the case. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Walter, a former Outback employee, is accused of entering the restaurant
with Richard Markeil "Lucky" Henson, robbing it and then killing the 3
Henson, of Texarkana, will be tried later.
Killed were Outback's owner, Matt Hines, and employees Rebecca Shifflet
and Chrystal Willis on Labor Day 2003.
Walter has pleaded not guilty.
The trial was moved to Collin County because of pre-trial publicity in the
(source: KTBS News)
Serial Killer Must Attend Sentencing
A former nurse who admitted killing 17 patients at hospitals in two states
must attend a sentencing hearing where he will face the families of six of
his alleged victims, a judge ruled.
Judge William H. Platt said he would not accept Charles Cullen's waiver of
his right to appear at his sentencing after he is expected to plead guilty
Nov. 17 to killing 6 people in Lehigh County.
Cullen, 44, is charged with six counts of homicide and 3 counts of
attempted homicide in Lehigh County. He faces a life prison sentence.
Cullen's attorney, public defender Johnnie Mask, said he was not happy
with Platt's decision but would not oppose it.
"He needs to be there to face us," said Connie Keeler, the daughter of
Paul Galgon, 72, a patient authorities said Cullen attempted to kill in
2001. "He should have to look into each of our faces and see the pain we
are going through."
Besides the 6 in Lehigh County, Cullen has pleaded guilty to using lethal
doses of medication to kill 17 mostly elderly patients at hospitals in New
Jersey and Pennsylvania.
In a sweeping plea agreement in April, prosecutors in seven counties in
both states agreed not to seek the death penalty in exchange for Cullen's
When Cullen pleaded guilty to a killing in Northampton County in
September, the daughter of the elderly victim called Cullen a monster,
talked about her father's life and asked Cullen whether he remembered his
victims. Mask said the hearing was hard on his client, and he would prefer
to avoid them.
Families in Lehigh County will not be able to confront Cullen at the Nov.
17 hearing. His sentencing probably will be scheduled for next year.
Cullen is accused of killing 5 people and attempting to kill 2 others at
St. Luke's Hospital in Fountain Hill, where he worked from June 2000 to
June 2002. He also is accused of killing one person and attempting to kill
another at Lehigh Valley Hospital in Salisbury Township, where he worked
from December 1998 to April 2000.
Cullen was arrested in December.
(source: Associated Press)
Alas, the people have spoken
Oh promise me that some day you and I
Will take our love together to some sky. . . .
C.W. Scott Oh, Promise Me
The American people have spoken and here is some of what they said. Lie to
me all you want and if you do it often enough I'll not only believe you
but I will be forever devoted to you. It's the classic story of the
cocktail waitress and the millionaire's promise of marriage. All I care
about is that you look sincere when you lie to me, as, for example, Dick
Cheney and George Bush always do, and you'll have my undying devotion and
The American people have said give us a United States Supreme Court with
more people like Clarence Thomas and Antonin Scalia. Mr. Bush promises to
do just that. He has held them up as his ideals of what a Supreme Court
Justice should be which is not hard to understand since they got him to
where he was until the American people elected him on Tuesday. We've even
had some names floated as possible nominees long before the election was
held. One of the names was that of Edith Jones who now sits on the United
States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit.
Judge Jones has had more than one extraordinary opinion but one of her
most remarkable opinions was written in the case of Calvin Jerold Burdine,
who committed a robbery during the course of which "Dub" Wise was killed.
Burdine was convicted of capital murder and sentenced to death by lethal
injection. The lawyer who represented him slept through part of the trial.
The trial-court judge concluded that someone represented by a sleeping
lawyer was no better off than someone who was unrepresented.
A series of appeals followed, the last of which was in the Court of
Appeals for the Fifth Circuit. Judge Jones wrote that a slumbering lawyer
was no big deal. The mere fact that a lawyer slept through parts of the
trial was not, said she and a colleague (and the judges took 15 pages of
small type as downloaded from the Internet to say it) reason to set aside
Mr. Burdine's conviction. According to their opinion: "we cannot determine
whether Cannon slept during a 'critical stage' of Burdine's trial."
To prove their point that not all slumber is prejudicial, the 2 judges
gave a number of examples of the kinds of testimony through which a
defense lawyer could sleep without prejudicing the client's rights.
Included among the examples were sleeping while unobjectionable evidence
was being introduced or sleeping while evidence was being introduced whose
introduction would not surprise the sleeping lawyer upon awakening. To
avoid any suggestion that they approved of court room somnolence they said
that they were not: "condoning sleeping by defense counsel during a
capital murder trial (or any other trial, for that matter)." However,
where, as in this case, the defendant could not demonstrate that the
sleeping was prejudicial, the 2 judges were happy to let the death penalty
work its magic.
The American people said let's drill for more oil and let's do it in the
Arctic. They'll get their wish. In election night comments, one Republican
senator said that in addition to putting more right-wing judges on all the
courts (my words, his sentiments) we would soon begin drilling in the
Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska.
In 2002, the Alaska Science Center of the United States Geological Survey
released a study that said drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge
in Alaska could harm caribou, snow geese, musk oxen and other wildlife.
One of the consequences of drilling, said the report, would be reductions
in the survival of caribou calves in June and a loss of weight in pregnant
females and the weight of calves in late June. The study followed 12 years
of research. The American people have said they don't care. There's oil in
Alaska and we need to get it out. George Bush will help them do it.
The American people said they like tax cuts. Today only people who have
more than $3 million pay any estate taxes. Voters feel sorry for people
with more than $3 million and want to eliminate estate taxes. The reason
for that is compassionate conservatism. Losing a loved one is always hard
and it is even harder when the loss of the loved one is accompanied by a
loss of a part of the loved one's fortune to the tax collector.
Republicans can't grant eternal life. They can and will help people have
eternal fortunes. These are just a few of the things for which the
American public voted. Others can explain why.
(source: Chris Brauchli, The Boulder Daily Camera)
Fletcher hears pleas for man's life----Appeals cite governor's medical,
Death penalty opponents are using unusual tactics to try to persuade Gov.
Ernie Fletcher to commute the death sentence of a condemned man.
Fletcher, who campaigned on his medical and religious background, is now
being asked to put those beliefs to the test.
Attorney General Greg Stumbo asked Fletcher last month to set a November
execution date for Thomas Clyde Bowling Jr., who was convicted of killing
a Lexington couple in 1990.
But Fletcher has also received a host of letters and pleas to commute
Bowling's sentence that appeal not only to Fletcher the governor and
politician but Fletcher the lay minister and family physician.
Just yesterday, a group of state legislators sent Fletcher a letter asking
him to commute Bowling's sentence to life in prison because of lingering
questions about Bowling's mental capacity.
But Fletcher has also received requests that quote Scripture and American
Medical Association ethics by-laws.
Fletcher appears to be weighing all requests carefully -- he was asked
almost a month ago to set a Nov. 16 execution date.
Bowling was convicted of killing Tina and Edward Earley and shooting and
injuring their then-2-year-old son in 1990 in front of their Lexington
dry-cleaning business. If Fletcher does not commute his sentence and all
other legal efforts fail, Bowling will become the 3rd person since 1976 to
be executed by the state.
A spokesman for Fletcher said yesterday that the governor is "considering
all requests from all different perspectives and hopes to have a decision
In 2003, Fletcher told the Herald-Leader that he supported the death
penalty but added: "I don't think anyone can anticipate what they would
feel like when they have that responsibility and authority."
Among the many arguments sent to Fletcher, perhaps one of the more
distinctive and possibly problematic is a request that he not sign a death
warrant because he is a doctor.
A group of more than 30 University of Kentucky medical students sent the
governor a letter reminding the governor that the American Medical
Association ethics codes say a physician should not participate in a
legally authorized execution.
And then there is the law.
In the late 1990s, when the state overhauled its death penalty laws, a
provision was added that said no doctor should take part in any execution.
Former state Rep. Mike Bowling, who crafted the law but now says he is
against the death penalty, said the state medical association asked him to
put the language in the law because of concerns about doctors violating
the American Medical Association ethics laws. (Bowling is not related to
Thomas Clyde Bowling.)
Because of the law, prison staff, not doctors, administer lethal
injections at the Eddyville state prison.
Kentucky medical students have asked the Kentucky Board of Medical
Licensure whether Fletcher can sign the warrant, said Floyd Vest II,
general counsel for the organization.
But the watchdog group answers ethics questions only from doctors
themselves, not from outside groups, Vest said.
Fletcher hasn't signed the warrant yet, so he hasn't done anything wrong,
"We're still trying to decide what to do," Vest said of the medical
Vest and Fletcher's staff said Fletcher has not asked for an opinion from
the medical board.
Others have appealed to Fletcher the lay preacher.
Less than a week after Attorney General Greg Stumbo asked for an execution
date, Fletcher met with Louisville Archbishop Thomas Kelly and Bishop John
McRaith of Owensboro, who urged the governor not to allow Bowling to die.
The meeting was not simply for show, those who attended said.
"He cares a lot about the moral questions surrounding this issue," Kelly
said. "He sees it as a moral issue rather than a political one, and for
that I was most grateful."
The Catholic bishops met with the governor for about 45 minutes, Kelly
In their petition for clemency, lawyers for Bowling cited Bible verses,
most notably the internal conflict of Pontius Pilate over the crucifixion
of Jesus Christ.
And then there are questions about Bowling's possible innocence and mental
capacity. It is illegal under both federal and state law to execute a
mentally handicapped person.
Seven state legislators, including one Republican, sent Fletcher a letter
yesterday saying that if there are questions about Bowling's mental
capacity, he should not be executed.
Bowling was convicted in 1990 killings.
(source: Lexington Herald Leader)
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