[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Mon Nov 8 22:16:49 CST 2004
Texas to consider death penalty option
In Austin, a bill was pre-filed in the Texas Legislature Monday that would
give the state's juries the option of a life sentence without parole in
Currently, Texas juries can only sentence a convicted killer to life in
prison or death. A person sentenced to life may become eligible for parole
after serving 40 years.
Sen. Eddie Lucio Jr., D-Brownville, said his bill would provide a new
option for juries who don't want to sentence a defendant to death, but
oppose early parole.
"This bill should in no way alter the death penalty, but it will ensure
safer streets and justice for the victims of crime and their families," he
Lucio said the proposed law would not create a new class of prisoners more
prone to violence with no hope of parole. He cited a 15-year study in
Missouri that found no difference.
Currently, 46 states offer life-without-parole as a sentencing option.
Nearly all of the 38 states that allow the death penalty offer
life-without-parole as an option.
Lucio has offered the bill for the past 3 sessions of the Texas
Legislature without success.
(source: United Press International)
Death penalty ruling sought-----State attorney general asks Court of
Appeals to decide on notification; Arundel case spurred dispute;
Prosecutors say decision complicates capital trials
In a case being closely watched by both sides in the death penalty debate,
the Maryland attorney general is asking the state's highest court to erase
an Anne Arundel County ruling that would force prosecutors to say whether
they intend to seek the death penalty when they bring an indictment. The
issue, being argued before the Maryland Court of Appeals Tuesday, involves
the case of Michael D. Henry, who is to go on trial in January in the
stabbing death of a fellow inmate.
Prosecutors warn that Anne Arundel County judges effectively rewrote the
state's death-penalty legal procedures in a way that could force them to
decide early on -- often more than a year before they otherwise might --
whether to seek the death penalty.
"This is not a matter of putting a single case back on track, but putting
the prosecution of capital cases as a whole back on track," Assistant
Attorney General Annabelle L. Lisic wrote, asking the court to hear her
But William B. Purpura, who will defend Henry in his murder trial, said a
capital murder in dictment should be "very simple" for prosecutors to
craft because they should have the information.
The dispute was set off in September after a ruling in a death penalty
case involving a Glen Burnie man, Kenneth E. Abend, accused of killing his
landlady and her daughter-in-law.
Anne Arundel Circuit Court Judge Pamela L. North -- basing her ruling on
recent U.S. Supreme Court decisions -- said that county prosecutors had to
allege in their indictment that Abend was the person who committed the two
murders if they wanted to continue with a death-penalty case.
Within days of North's ruling, prosecutors had obtained a new indictment
that added capital murder counts, specified Abend as the alleged killer
and said he is eligible for the death penalty.
A few weeks later, Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck adopted
North's reasoning in the Henry prison murder case, prompting prosecutors
to bring their challenge the state's highest court.
Prosecutors oppose having to notify a defendant in the indictment that
they intend to seek the death penalty. They say they could be rushed
because the indictment sometimes comes a few weeks after an arrest.
"Prosecutors, to cover themselves, would be giving notification of where
they are seeking a death penalty before they have all the information.
Then they would drop it," said Douglas F. Gansler, Montgomery County
state's attorney and legislative chairman of the Maryland State's
Anne Arundel County State's Attorney Frank R. Weathersbee said his office
typically invites the defense lawyers to present issues that weigh against
a death sentence, reviews the prosecution's case and consults with the
victim's relatives prior to making its decision.
But Julia Doyle Bernhardt, assistant public defender, noted in her brief
to the state's high court that federal prosecutors and state prosecutors
in New Jersey specify capital cases in indictments.
Requiring that a grand jury be told that the suspect was the actual
killer, she wrote, "would impair the state's ability to seek death only in
cases where the state lacks even the minimal evidence" to get the grand
jury to bring the indictment. And in such a case, she wrote, the state
"has no legitimate interest in pursuing the death penalty in the first
The impact of a Maryland high court ruling in this case remains to be
Lisic, the assistant attorney general who will argue the case Tuesday,
wrote in her brief that defendants around the state could raise Manck's
and North's rulings in appeals and before trial. Only if the Court of
Appeals makes its decision retroactive -- and that is rare -- would any of
the seven people on death row be affected.
But other death penalty defendants are coming up. The Public Defender's
Office estimated Monday that there are at least a dozen murder cases in
the state, including in Anne Arundel, Baltimore and Frederick counties, in
which prosecutors are seeking the death penalty, recently sought it or are
likely to seek it.
"At some point, the Court of Appeals is going to have to give some
guidance," said Gansler. "The Anne Arundel County judges -- if they are
right, the rest of us are going to have to conform."
(source: Baltimore Sun)
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