[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, MD., IND., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Wed Nov 10 09:21:58 CST 2004
Set to die tonight, killer says he's outlived own expectations
At 30 years of age and facing execution, condemned Texas inmate Frederick
McWilliams figures he's already lived longer than he ever anticipated.
"If none of this happened, I'd have been dead at age 25," said McWilliams,
a former warehouse worker who used the word "reckless" to describe his
lifestyle on the streets of Houston.
McWilliams was to die tonight for the slaying of a man in Houston 8 years
ago during a car theft.
At the time of the killing, he was on probation for armed robberies and
had been linked to other holdups.
"I never enjoyed doing things like that," he said from a small cage-like
cubicle in the visiting area outside death row. "I just felt in a helpless
situation at the time."
His execution would be the 22nd this year in Texas and the 2nd in as many
nights in Huntsville. On Tuesday night, Demarco McCullum, 30, received
lethal injection for the abduction, robbery, beating and fatal shooting 10
years ago of Michael Burzinski, 29, in Houston.
2 more executions are scheduled for next week and another in December. If
all are carried out, the 25 executions for the year would be one more than
in 2003. A record 40 took place in 2000.
The U.S. Supreme Court earlier this year refused to review McWilliams'
case and his attorneys were uncertain if any additional appeals would be
filed to try to block the punishment. A clemency petition and a request
for a 180-day reprieve were both rejected by the Texas Board of Pardons
"We're kind of at a loss at what to do," Jani Maselli, McWilliams' lawyer,
said. "It's just really really hard and demoralizing."
Court records show McWilliams, a cousin, Richard Hawkins, and a 3rd man,
Kenneth Adams, were driving around Houston the night of Sept. 27, 1996,
and discussed the prospect of stealing a car.
"We were going to use the car as a getaway vehicle for a crime the next
day," McWilliams said. "My job was to steal the car."
At an apartment complex, and as Hawkins dozed in the back seat of their
car, McWilliams and Adams selected a 1983 Chevrolet only to find Alfonso
Rodriguez sleeping inside. They then returned to their own car. According
to testimony, Adams told McWilliams he should have gotten the man and the
2 decided to go back, this time armed.
Rodriguez was pulled from the driver's side at gunpoint and was beaten by
Adams as McWilliams rifled through the glove box. According to McWilliams,
Adams and Rodriguez were wrestling and in the struggle Adams dropped his
weapon, which Rodriguez managed to grab.
"The victim rushed me. He had his hand on the pistol. I had a hand on the
pistol," McWilliams said. "I don't know if he pulled the trigger or I
pulled the trigger.
"The gun went off."
Hawkins apparently decided he wanted no part of the robbery, drove off and
later would tell authorities he heard a shot. McWilliams and Adams
eventually caught up with him.
A week later, Adams was stopped for speeding and police found guns in his
car, including one tied to the Rodriguez slaying. He told them McWilliams
was the gunman, leading to McWilliams' arrest, subsequent trial and death
"I'm innocent in the sense I didn't maliciously, knowingly, intentionally
cause his death," he said. "I never intended to kill anybody."
Hawkins, now 27, received an 8-year prison term. Adams, now 26, received a
"Not a day goes by that I don't wish I could take that whole day back,"
said McWilliams, whose middle name is Patrick and is known on death row as
"Freddie P." 3 of his upper front teeth are capped in gold with the
initials P, E and E engraved in gothic letters.
It's uncertain why Rodriguez was asleep in his car that night. A
half-brother, Melchor Hernandez, told the Houston Chronicle that Rodriguez
had a daughter, was a truck driver, worked hard, loved rock music and
"never got in trouble with the law."
"There's nothing I could say, nothing that can be done that will bring Mr.
Rodriguez back," said McWilliams, who has a stepson and a daughter of his
"The one thing I really really miss is my daughter going to sleep on my
chest. It's the one thing I miss more than anything."
(source: Associated Press)
Court hears opposition from state in death-penalty notification case
Prosecutors say alleging capital crime isn't useful
Maryland officials told the state's highest court yesterday that
prosecutors should not be required to say at the time they bring a murder
indictment whether they intend to seek the death penalty.
Judges of the Court of Appeals peppered lawyers with questions about the
implications of a September Anne Arundel County court ruling that
prosecutors contend could needlessly complicate the process of bringing
death-penalty cases to trial.
"In a death-penalty context, we ought not to be playing around with this
issue," Assistant Attorney General Annabelle L. Lisic argued.
She argued that it would not be cost-effective for prosecutors to
routinely allege a capital crime in murder indictments - prompting
elaborate preparation by prosecution and defense alike - because few
capital cases ultimately are brought.
The issue being argued yesterday stems from the case of Michael D. Henry,
a prisoner who is to be tried in Anne Arundel County in the fatal stabbing
of another inmate.
Anne Arundel County Circuit Judge Joseph P. Manck - using the same logic
as Anne Arundel Circuit Judge Pamela L. North did in a county murder case
- ruled that, in effect, the indictment must allege that Henry is the
person who committed the murder.
Prosecutors and the attorney general's office challenged the ruling and
want the state's highest court to intervene.
The Office of the Public Defender estimates that there are at least a
dozen murder cases in the state, including in Anne Arundel and Baltimore
counties, that may be affected by what the Court of Appeals decides in the
Henry case. Also, seven men are on death row, and some of them might try
to raise the issue in appeals.
Much of yesterday's discussion was over whether the high court should even
consider the issue.
Several judges appeared to lean toward taking it on. If they don't, years
could pass before the question comes before them in a death penalty appeal
- if at all.
But Assistant Public Defender Julia Doyle Bernhardt told the Court of
Appeals there is no need for the high court to get involved because
prosecutors have a simple cure for their problem.
"All they have to do is go back to the grand jury and get a new
indictment," Bernhardt said.
Prosecutors are hoping for a quick decision by the top court. Henry's
trial is planned for January, although prosecutors could seek a
(source: Baltimore Sun)
Crime merits death penalty, lawyer says
A bad childhood doesnt justify murder.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Philip Benson told a federal jury Tuesday it
shouldnt let alleged child abuse claims sway them from sentencing Styles
Taylor to death.
"He is a cold-blooded murder who put 2 bullets in Frank Freunds head and
he needs to be held accountable," Benson told the jury during his
sometimes fiery closing arguments in U.S. District Court.
The jury was expected to begin deliberations this morning in the penalty
phase of Taylors trial. Taylor, 24, of Hammond, was found guilty in
September of shooting to death a local gun store owner during a robbery 4
Taylors accomplice, Keon Thomas, 29, of Hammond, was also convicted of
murder in this same trial.
Defense attorneys David Vandecoy and John Martin asked the jury during
their closing arguments Tuesday to spare their clients life and sentence
him to life in prison without the possibility of release. The defense
claimed Taylor was raised in an abusive and loveless household in which he
was routinely exposed to drugs, violence and other illegal activities.
Martin said the years of neglect and abuse as a child "shaped the choices"
he made as an adult. Taylors mother beat him, use drugs and prostituted
herself, according to Martin, and this made him grow up to be an angry
young man with no regard for the law.
Benson classified this was a lame excuse.
"There are people every day who went through terrible abuse in childhood,
but they overcame it," the prosecutor said.
The government is asking the jury to sentence Taylor to death because he
has prior convictions, it was a heinous crime and it was premeditated.
Benson said Taylor and Thomas were small-time drug dealers who had planned
to steal handguns in order to exchange them for more drugs. On March 20,
2000, Benson said the pair went into Firearms Unlimited at 935 Chicago
Ave. and Taylor shot Freund, 73, twice at point-blank range. The two then
stole 15 guns from the store.
Benson said the assailants planned to kill the owner, because they made no
attempt to hide identities - such as wearing masks - during the robbery.
"They were not going to leave any witnesses to identify them," he said.
Vandecoy argued this was a "robbery gone bad" and his client had no
intention of killing the store owner. The defense attorney pointed out
there were signs of "panic" in the store, because the robbers left several
guns at the scene and never bothered to take the more than $200 left in
the cash register. He said the shooting started because the Freund, who
carried a gun, made an attempt to defend his store during the robbery.
The defense also reminded the jury that there was no forensic evidence
linking Taylor to the crime. Vandecoy said the governments only evidence
was the testimony of 4 unreliable witnesses. Most of these witnesses
repeatedly lied to investigators and the grand jury, according to
Vandecoy, and only cooperated after being promised leniency.
"Each of them received, essentially, the deal of the century," Vandecoy
Benson countered that point by telling the jury it didnt need forensic
evidence to issue a death sentence.
He said the jurors can use the testimony and their own "common sense" to
make the decision.
After this jury returns will its decision, it will begin hearing testimony
in Thomas penalty phase.
Death Penalty Has No Place In Civilization
Letters To The Editor:
There are few civilized countries that advocate the death penalty. Since
1973, 116 prisoners have been exonerated from death row after evidence
proved they were innocent of the crimes for which they were sentenced to
death, yet as of Jan. 1, about 3,500 people were on death row. Surely some
of these people are innocent of the crimes they have been charged with
committing. Even given the scientific technology that we have today, it
remains difficult to know for sure that someone committed a crime. The
average number of exonerations per year has increased. From 1973-1998,
there were an average of 2.96 exonerations per year. Since 1998, the
average has risen to 7.6 exonerations per year. Science may be improving,
but accuracy is not.
Many argue that the death penalty provides a cheaper alternative to life
without parole. This is untrue. A single death penalty case, from the
point of arrest to the time of execution, including all appeals, may cost
upwards of $3 million. The cost of incarcerating a criminal for life
averages about $500,000, and should evidence surface that a prisoner is
innocent, he may be released.
The death penalty has not been proven to be a deterrent of homicides.
Since Canada abolished it in 1976, its homicide rate per 100,000 people
has decreased dramatically, from 3.09 to 1.85 %, disproving the theory
that the death penalty discourages homicides.
In the past decade, an average of 3 countries per year have abolished the
death penalty. The United States prides itself on being one of the global
leaders in equality and opportunity, promising people life, liberty and
the pursuit of happiness, but then robs them of the most important right -
to live. The U.S. government needs to epitomize proper behavior, not kill
close to 1,000 of its own people in less than 30 years.
(source: Letter to the Editor, The Day)
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