[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, USA, MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 9 13:25:57 CST 2004
Lucio renews bid for life-without-parole option
For the 4th time in as many legislative sessions, state Sen. Eddie Lucio,
D-Brownsville, filed a bill on Monday that would allow Texas juries to
hand down a sentence of life without parole.
The new option would give juries a guarantee that defendants of heinous
crimes would not be set free on parole if given a life sentence, Lucio
said. The death penalty still would be available when juries deemed it
appropriate, he said.
Currently, juries can recommend a life or death sentence for capital
crimes, but convicts given life sentences can be released on 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,"
said Lucio, who said he supports he death penalty.
"I think youll find that most of us will continue to support the death
penalty because Texas has always taken a strong stance on it," Lucio said.
Texas has executed more people than any other state - 336 of them - since
the federal death penalty was reinstated and states gained the ability to
use it, according to the Death Penalty Information Center. California,
which has a larger population, has executed 10 people during that time.
Lucio said polls have shown that Texans support the idea of having life
without parole. It would also save the state money on expensive appeals
and give victims families closure more quickly than the lengthy appeals
process that is common with death penalty cases, he said.
"The legislation would provide every victims family closure in that they
wont have to relive the pain through the parole process," said Lucio.
"These families, who have already suffered enough, would have the
certainty that the murderer would never get out of prison."
State Sen. Juan "Chuy" Hinojosa, D-McAllen, is a co-sponsor of the bill.
He also supports the death penalty, but wants juries to have another
option in cases they dont think a death sentence fits, he said.
"It is logical," he said. "You have someone who is mentally retarded (for
example), and shouldnt be put to death."
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to execute
mentally retarded defendants.
Hinojosa sponsored a bill for life without parole when he was in the House
Lucio does not yet have a sponsor in the House, but hopes to find a
Republican to help carry it, he said.
Rep. Aaron Pea, D-Edinburg, said he would support such a bill in the
Lucio has offered the measure three times before. In 1999 the bill died in
the Senate; in 2001, it passed the Senate but died in the House by eight
votes; and in 2003, it died in the Senate.
Lucio was the only member of the nine-person Rio Grande Valley delegation
to file legislation on Monday, the first day for bills for the 2005
Other legislators and their staff members said they are working on
legislation, but did not deem it necessary to file on the first day. Bills
filed on the 1st day generally are assigned lower bill numbers than those
State Rep. Rene Oliveira, D-Brownsville, the senior member of the Valley
House delegation, said that in his 10 years as a committee chairman, he
never considered a bills number when determining whether to debate it.
"Theres nothing wrong with pre-filing bills on the first possible day, but
it certainly is not a silver bullet for getting a bill passed," Oliveira
(source: Brownsville Herald)
Outback trial gets under way----Widow, others testify as case against
Toni Hines wiped her eyes several times during her testimony about what is
known of the last hour of her husband's life.
She wasn't alone.
Collin County jurors and audience members silently wept while Hines told
what led Texarkana, Texas, police officers to discover the executed bodies
of her husband and two managers inside Texarkana's Outback Steakhouse in
the early morning hours of Sept. 1, 2003.
Matthew Hines, Rebecca Shifflett and Chrystal Willis were found inside the
cramped back office of the Texarkana eatery.
The capital murder trial of Stephon Lavelle Walter, one of the suspects in
the shootings, got under way Monday.
Toni Hines testified that she grew increasingly concerned about her
husband's welfare that night. Toni's husband of almost 3 years was on his
last day of vacation on Aug. 31, 2003.
As is the practice of Outback restaurants, it was time for the
end-of-the-month inventory. Shifflett was the restaurant's general
manager, Willis was the assistant manager and Matt Hines was the
Matt Hines went to the restaurant after closing, about 10:45 p.m. on Aug.
31, to assist in the inventory.
Toni Hines last spoke to her husband at 11:30 p.m. because the couple's
15-month-old baby was fussy. Matt Hines spoke to his son to calm the
"He said he didn't think it would be very much longer," Toni Hines
recalled. He told her he had been working on the store's invoices.
An hour passed and the baby was fussy again and her husband had not
called, she testified.
She called him again, in hopes of at least retrieving the infant car seat
to drive the baby around to lull him to sleep.
She made repeated phone calls to the restaurant and to her husband's
mobile phone but was unable to contact him. Finally, she testified, she
resorted to driving to the restaurant.
"I saw Rebecca's car and another car," Toni Hines recalled.
She drove around the restaurant and also saw her husband's vehicle.
"All the lights were still on and the blinds were still open. I thought
that was odd," Hines testified.
She left her vehicle and began knocking on the restaurant's west door,
which is used for "take-away" orders. She also continued calling her
husband using her mobile phone.
When ringing the doorbell failed, she parked near her husband's vehicle
and began honking her horn.
"I sat there forever," Hines testified.
She called her mother-in-law and explained the situation.
"I told her that I thought something was wrong and I didn't know what to
do," Toni Hines testified.
At her mother-in-law's advice, she returned home and notified police.
Texarkana, Texas, Police Sgt. Vito Daddato testified that he received the
call at 3 a.m.
He and 2 officers went to the restaurant and knocked on the door, but
there was no answer.
They were able to contact Sharunda Hawkins, the restaurant's kitchen
manager, who had a key to the restaurant.
A bit later, Toni Hines was on the phone with her mother-in-law, who asked
her if she heard sirens.
"I didn't and I thought that was a good sign," Hines testified.
Toni Hines and her husband lived one mile from the restaurant.
"Then I opened my front door and all of a sudden I heard a dozen sirens,"
Toni Hines testified. She woke her baby and raced to the restaurant.
"There were police officers everywhere and they rushed to my vehicle,"
Toni Hines testified.
She said the paramedics would not tell her anything.
But later, police told her what happened.
Paperwork littered a table where it was apparent that her husband had been
working on invoices.
Authorities believe Walter gained entry into the building using the
"take-away" door, which was faulty and hard to close.
The door hung open 3/4 of an inch to 1-inch, which was commonly known by
restaurant employees and perhaps some regular customers.
Each of the employees was shot in the head. Shifflett and Hines were shot
twice, and Willis was shot once.
Walter maintained a steely gaze during Monday's testimony until bloody
photographs of his former bosses were shown on the large screen in the
courtroom. He then appeared to cry.
The bodies were in the small office where the door is always locked and
can only be open by a key from the outside.
Crime scene photographs showed that Matt Hines' body was lying on top of a
set of keys.
Assistant Bowie County District Attorney Mike Shepherd theorized that
Walter took Matt Hines into the office at gunpoint and executed the trio.
Shifflett was found with her arms cradling her head in a defensive
posture, testified Kelli Banks, former Texarkana, Texas, police crime
scene investigator who worked the case. Banks recalled staying there 6
Hawkins also testified to staying at the scene for hours after handing
over the restaurant keys to police.
John C. Warren, the restaurant's saute cook, had been in contact with his
managers before he left for the night at about 11:30 p.m.
A friend of Warren's, who monitors police scanner traffic, called him when
he heard there may be something wrong at Outback.
Warren raced to the restaurant.
"We knew in our hearts what had happened," Warren testified.
At the time, police didn't have a suspect in the killing.
Hines, Hawkins and Warren all testified about knowing Walter, who had
worked at the restaurant from Sept. 30, 2001, to Aug. 5, 2003, when he was
fired by Matt Hines.
"I know he told me that he gave him several chances and if he messed up
again, he would have to fire him," Toni Hines testified.
Hawkins and Warren testified about Walter's spotty work history at
Outback, having been fired and rehired by 3 different successive
proprietors of the Texarkana restaurant.
In his opening arguments, Shepherd described revenge as Walter's motive
for killing his former bosses.
Blaise Hadley, Outback's joint venture partner who oversees 19
restaurants, including Texarkana's, told jurors of reprimands that Walter
had received for being disrespectful to other co-workers, leaving his
workstation as a cook in the kitchen and another unspecified infraction
mere weeks before his firing.
Each of the victims in the killings had signed off on one or the other
While Warren described Walter as "explosive" and having difficulty with
authority, Hawkins, who was Walter's long-ago lover, recalled him as
someone who would occasionally raise his voice.
Warren said Walter would throw pots and pans around while using foul
language at work, but Hawkins said Walter never used bad language. She
also did not recall his throwing pots and pans, but she admitted she and
Walter worked different hours.
Walter is being tried for capital murder because the murders occurred as
part of a robbery.
Hadley testified that an audit of the restaurant's petty cash, which only
managers usually have access to, showed that between $900 and $1,000 was
If Shepherd and co-prosecutor Adam Fellows are successful in getting a
guilty verdict against Walter, they will ask jurors to levy the death
Fifth District Judge Ralph Burgess earlier moved the trial to Collin
County because he feared intense media coverage of the triple slayings
would make it impossible for Walter to receive a fair trial in Bowie
(source: Texarkana Gazette)
Mother has 2nd child after accused of killing first
A mother accused of beating to death her 2-year-old daughter gave birth to
another child last week.
Kimberly Alexander's child was born Nov. 2 at University Hospital. The
child was then placed in CPS custody.
Alexander was charged with capital murder in the death of another child,
Diamond Alexander, earlier this year.
Prosecutors so far have not decided if they will seek the death penalty in
Child Protective Services had just returned Diamond, who died in June, to
her mother following an investigation.
Judge Peter Sakai stepped down from the bench for a week after Diamond
(source: KENS 5 Eyewitness News)
Call to stop executions of juvenile offenders -- U.S. is among few nations
that allow execution of people under 18
"In the past 10 years, the United States has executed more juveniles than
the rest of the world combined," reports Physicians for Human Rights
(PHR). The organization is currently supporting efforts against the death
penalty for offenses committed by people under 18 years of age,
specifically the Call to Abolish the Execution of Juvenile Offenders in
the United States campaign.
The campaign, backed by former U.S. surgeons general, health
professionals, neuroscientists, organizations for children, and worldwide
political figures, publicizes findings of neurological research that
indicate that minors do not have the mental maturity to be fully
responsible for acts that could be punished with the termination of their
life. If their mental and emotional development is in a rather early
phase, rehabilitation is not only the appropriate human approach but also
the rational scientific response.
Following this line of argument, the campaign refers to recent studies
that indicate that the brains of children and adolescents operate
differently than those of adults. A young person's brain is dominated by
the regions associated with impulse and aggression. This is why youth tend
to have swifter reactions and why adolescent are less able to control
behavior and consider consequences and alternatives. Nevertheless the
administration of juvenile justice operates with an adult-centered
approach. Moreover, it is well know that minors that commit violent acts
have often been abused and neglected, which shifts the responsibilities of
their behavior, in considerable measure, to adults and to social
David Satcher, Surgeon General during Bill Clinton's administration, has
said, "Our country's practice of executing its youth is one that is
unacceptable and should end as soon as possible. Not only must we
acknowledge the relative immaturity and underdevelopment of our youth, but
we must also acknowledge our society's responsibility for many of their
behaviors. ... [M]ore that two thirds of the children who ended up in the
juvenile justice system would not be there if they had received the
appropriate mental health interventions that they needed to develop
normally. It is our responsibility to see that each child has an optimal
chance for a healthy start in life." Along with Satcher, endorsing the
Call to Abolish campaign are former Surgeons General C. Everett Koop and
The U.S. is among only a few nations that allow execution for crimes
committed by juveniles. And under intense national and international
pressure, the U.S. Supreme Court is currently reconsidering whether such
executions are constitutional.
The issue of capital punishment goes beyond the matter of executions for
juvenile offenses, of course. This past October, the Second World Congress
against the Death Penalty was held in Montreal. Addressing that congress,
the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour said, "This
congress convenes at a crucial moment, when old notions of state security
wrestle with new understandings of human security, and when the resulting
risks to unpopular vulnerable groups -such as minorities, migrants and
prisoners- have never been higher."
Arbour called for "...all states to move with deliberate speed to the
complete abolition of the death penalty," to which she referred as an
archaic practice that needs to be relegated "to nothing more that a
macabre curiosity in the world's history museums." She committed her
office to promote the states' ratification of the Second Optional Protocol
on the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and to be
vigilant on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, treaties that
ban the death penalty.
Article 37 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child refers to the
prohibition of capital punishment or imprisonment for life for crimes
committed by minors. This article has been a contentious one in UN forums
on children due to the U.S. government's opposition to its provisions. If
PHR's Call to Abolish campaign is successful, there may be no remaining
federal legislative provision on the basis of which the U.S. government
can continue to remain the only state in the world that has refused to
ratify this Convention.
Join the Call to Abolish campaign by contacting Physicians for Human
Rights: c/o John Heffernan, 617-431-6407. For more information, go to the
Write to your congressperson and senators requesting their support for the
U.S. ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and the
Second Optional Protocol on the International Covenant on Civil and
(source: Mayknoll Magazine)
Throw Away the Key?
Marcus Dixon had the makings of successful high school student. On his way
to Vanderbilt University on a football scholarship, this 18-year-old black
honors student was instead sentenced to 10 years imprisonment under
Georgia's mandatory sentence law. His crime, as determined by a jury, was
that he had consensual sex with a white classmate three years his junior.
Dixon then joined the 28 % of black men in America who have spent some
time in prison. Fortunately for Dixon, after spending 15 months in prison,
the Georgia Supreme Court overturned his sentence, allowing him to enroll
and play football at Hampton University.
Less lucky was Gary Ewing, who under California's 3 strikes law received a
25-year sentence without parole for stealing 3 golf clubs. Leandro Andrade
got a 50-year sentence for stealing children's videotapes from a Kmart
store. The Supreme Court last year upheld both these sentences, and
Californians last week at the polls rejected Proposition 66, which would
have amended the law to require that at least 2 of the three offences be
related to serious or violent crime.
America is becoming a nation of prisoners. Last year, 1 in every 140
people was behind bars, and in some States as many as 1 in every 100. We
now have one of the highest ratios of incarcerated people (five times more
than Britain, seven times greater than Canada and almost 15 times the
ratio in Japan), leading The Economist to write in 2002 that the U.S. "has
overtaken Russia as the world's most aggressive jailer."
The New York Times reports that in 2003, 44 percent of America's prisoners
were black, 35 percent white and 19 percent Hispanic. Amnesty
International attributes racial prejudice in the legal system as a major
factor for the disproportionate number of black inmates, especially those
on death row; citing for example, that the U.S. General Accounting Office
concluded that "in 82 percent of the studies, race of victim was found to
influence the likelihood of being charged with capital murder or receiving
a death sentence, i.e., those who murdered whites were found to be more
likely to be sentenced to death than those who murdered blacks. This
finding was remarkably consistent across data sets, states, data
collection methods, and analytic techniques." Worse still are the numerous
examples from the Innocence Project (www.innocenceproject.org), a
non-profit legal clinic that has over the last decade used conclusive DNA
testing to exonerate over 150 people who had been convicted for crimes
that they did not commit.
Reforming the justice system is one of the major themes that former
Attorney General Janet Reno '60 is discussing this week as she stays at
Alice Cook house during her visit to Cornell. But reform has its critics.
The Bureau of Statistics of the Justice Department shows that crime is
currently at its lowest level, with only 15 percent of households affected
in 2003, down from 25 % in 1994. A September 2004 report shows that
violent crime and property crime are at the lowest rate in 30 years.
Ms. Reno puts forward a very pragmatic agenda. She argues that the states
simply cannot afford the rising costs of prisons and therefore must reduce
the number of prisoners. She believes that mandatory sentencing doesn't
work, and the psychologies of some criminals defy the notions of reward
and punishment. Improved job training, job placement services and social
services for released convicts would prevent them from returning to prison
-- currently, an estimated 2/3 of freed prisoners are arrested again
within 3 years.
It is imperative that racial prejudices in the system be seriously
addressed and corrected. Some suggest that efforts to implement social
programs providing education, food and housing in poverty-ridden areas
need be redoubled, since these would tackle the problem at the source.
Perhaps giving ex-convicts the right to vote would harness the power of
democracy to fix these problems. But at the end of the day, it is the cost
argument that will win the case for reform. It is estimated that the U.S.
spends over $50 billion per year on its prison system, or more than
$20,000 per prisoner per year! Some courageous politicians need to stand
up to political pressure and make the case that it is much more cost
effective to invest in social programs than to continue building more
There are perhaps 3 lenses through which society views crime. On the
personal level, nobody wants to be falsely accused and convicted of a
crime they did not commit. This tendency advocates for rigorous standards
of evidence and makes sharp distinctions between crimes like robbery and
more prevalent crimes like underage drinking, downloading illegal music,
and speeding on the highway. The 2nd lens is on the level of the
community, which tends to be tough on crime. Attempts to root out drugs
and sex crimes in our neighborhood with mandatory sentencing fall in this
category. It would be interesting to survey Cornell students to see what
they thought was an appropriate punishment for the Collegetown Creeper
(who from the report in last Friday's Sun seems to be still at large). In
dinner conversation, suggestions ranged widely: a restraining order from
around Cornell's vicinity; 30 hours of community service and counseling;
and others who favored a much harsher punishment. The third lens falls
somewhere in between these 2, and is when you think of crime occurring in
some abstract place like New York City or Podunk, USA; how should society
punish a man in New York who wanders into open doors to watch its
inhabitants sleeping? It is with this 3rd, more objective, lens that we
should examine and reform the judicial system to maximize the public good.
(source: Cornell Daily Sun - Shaffique Adam is a graduate student in
Death penalty ruling sought----State attorney general asks Court of
Appeals to advise 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 today,
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 indictment 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 2
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 to 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 today, 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 yesterday 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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