[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----USA, TENN., CALIF., ARIZ.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 16 09:55:36 CST 2004
Who Supports the Death Penalty?
Since 1936, Gallup has been asking Americans, "Are you in favor of the
death penalty for a person convicted of murder?" The percentage of
Americans in favor of the death penalty has fluctuated significantly over
the years, ranging from a low of 42% in 1966, during a revival of the
anti-death penalty movement, to a high of 80% in 1994. More recently,
public opinion on the death penalty has been more stable, with upward of 2
in 3 Americans supporting it.
Gallup has asked Americans this question at least twice a year since 2001.
To examine responses to this question more closely, Gallup combined the
results of the nine surveys that asked this question from 2001 through
2004 on a year-by-year basis*. Overall, the data show that 67% of
Americans supported the death penalty for convicted murderers in 2001.
This percentage increased slightly to 71% in 2002, before dropping back to
67% in 2003. Results for this year show essentially no change since last
Politics and Capital Punishment
Republicans' and Democrats' opinions on the death penalty differ, although
a majority in both groups endorses it. Eighty percent of Republicans
support the death penalty, while 65% of independents and 58% of Democrats
Americans who identify themselves as political conservatives are also more
likely to support the death penalty than are moderates or liberals. Nearly
three in four conservatives (74%) support capital punishment, compared
with 68% of moderates and 54% of liberals.
Men vs. Women on the Death Penalty
Although a majority of both men and women support the death penalty, men
are much more likely to do so than are women. More than 7 in 10 men (74%)
support the death penalty, compared with 62% of women.
Racial Differences on Death Penalty Support
There are substantial differences between whites and blacks in their
support for capital punishment. The data show that 71% of whites support
the death penalty, compared with only 44% of blacks. This stark difference
may be the result of the ongoing debate about the overrepresentation of
blacks on death rows across the country. The Bureau of Justice Statistics
reports that there were 3,374 prisoners on death row in 2003, of which
1,418 were black and 1,878 were white. Blacks represent 42% of the inmates
on death row, but only 12% of the nation's population.
Views of the Death Penalty by Age
The aggregate shows only slight variations in death penalty support by
Religion and Death Penalty Support
The combined aggregate results from the 9 surveys conducted from 2001
through 2004 show some interesting, albeit subtle, differences in death
penalty support by religiosity.
Americans who attend religious services on a regular basis are slightly
less likely to support the death penalty than those who attend less
frequently. Although a majority of frequent and infrequent churchgoers
support the death penalty, the data show that 65% of those who attend
services weekly or nearly weekly favor capital punishment, compared with
69% of those who attend services monthly and 71% of those who seldom or
Protestants are somewhat more likely to endorse capital punishment than
are Catholics and far more likely than those with no religious preference.
More than 7 in 10 Protestants (71%) support the death penalty, while 66%
of Catholics support it. 57 % of those with no religious preference favor
the death penalty for murder.
Practicing vs. Non-Practicing
Practicing Catholics, or those who attend church on a weekly or near
weekly basis, are less likely to support capital punishment than are
non-practicing Catholics (those who attend services rarely or never).
Fewer than 6 in 10 practicing Catholics (59%) support the death penalty.
This compares with 73% of non-practicing Catholics who support it. This
result suggests that practicing Catholics are more likely to adhere to the
Catholic Church's anti-death penalty position.
The data also show a similar difference between practicing and
non-practicing Protestants in their support for capital punishment,
although not to the extent found among Catholics. 68 % of practicing
Protestants support the death penalty, compared with roughly 3 in 4
Protestants who attend church less frequently.
*Results are based on telephone interviews with 6,498 national adults,
aged 18 and older, conducted Feb. 19-21, 2001; May 10-14, 2001; Oct.
11-14, 2001; May 6-9, 2002; Oct. 14-17, 2002; May 5-7, 2003; Oct 6-9,
2003; May 2-4, 2004; and Oct. 11-14, 2004. For results based on the total
sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the
maximum margin of sampling error is 2 percentage points.
(source: The Gallup Organization)
DNA profiles often face delays before reaching FBI database, report says
Thousands of DNA profiles in unsolved criminal cases experience long
delays before they are added to a national FBI database, jeopardizing
their value in identifying suspected murderers, rapists and others,
according to a Justice Department report Monday.
The report by Glenn A. Fine, the Justice Department's inspector general,
identified more than 2,500 completed DNA profiles in unsolved cases that
had not been added by state and local crime labs to the FBI's Combined DNA
Index System in a timely fashion. Some had been waiting for nearly a year.
"The crime-solving potential of these profiles cannot be realized until
they are uploaded into CODIS, where they can be matched to convicted
offenders or other crime-scene evidence," Fine said in the report.
The FBI database, which contains more than 1.7 million profiles, is used
by forensic laboratories nationwide to match DNA evidence to that
recovered in previously unrelated crimes or to people already convicted of
The report also found that the Justice Department program created to help
states reduce a huge backlog of criminal cases awaiting DNA evidence
testing -- more than 540,000 as of April 2004 -- had only seen 41 percent
of its original $28.5 million in funding actually spent nearly two years
after the grants were awarded.
Such delays, the report said, "serve as indicators that state grantees are
not using program funds to increase their analytic capability and reduce
The report made 19 recommendations for improvements. Deborah Daniels, the
assistant attorney general for the Office of Justice Programs, said in a
written response that a Bush administration DNA initiative announced in
March 2003 will "successfully address many of the key issues" cited in the
For example, she said DNA backlog grants are now made directly to crime
laboratories to accelerate their usefulness and there are more specific
timeliness requirements for state and local labs to quickly add DNA
profiles to the FBI database.
Earlier this month, President Bush signed legislation providing $775
million over 5 years in grants for states to use in clearing up the DNA
On the Net: Justice Department inspector general: www.usdoj.gov/oig
(source: Associated Press)
Guards could face death penalty in inmate assault -- Justice Department's
review comes to light at pretrial hearing for Wilson County case
The U.S. Department of Justice is considering asking for the death penalty
for 2 of the detention officers charged with civil-rights abuses at the
Wilson County jail.
The status of the negotiations came to light yesterday during a hearing
before U.S. District Judge Todd J. Campbell, who is preparing for next
year's trial of 5 defendants who have been charged with taking part in a
conspiracy of brutal jailhouse beatings.
2 of those men, Patrick Marlowe and Gary Hale, are charged in the fatal
2003 assault of Walter Kuntz, a detainee who slipped into a coma at the
jail and later died at a nearby hospital.
Attorneys for both men notified Campbell yesterday that they had been
notified that a capital-case review committee at the U.S. Department of
Justice was considering asking for the death penalty for Marlowe and Hale,
a hearing transcript shows.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Bill Cohen told Campbell that the review committee
would make a final recommendation to the U.S. attorney general and
estimated that it a decision could come within 2 months.
The committee met and held a conference call Nov. 5 and is awaiting
response from Hale's attorney, Peter Strianse, who was notified by letter
of the capital-case conference.
Strianse told Campbell that he had participated in the conference but had
been unprepared to "deal with that issue having only received the letter a
few days before," the transcript shows.
Marlowe attorney Roger N. Taylor also participated in the Nov. 5
capital-review committee conference.
Neither Strianse nor Taylor was available for comment yesterday afternoon.
Campbell asked whether Attorney General John Ashcroft, who has announced
that he is resigning from President Bush's Cabinet, would be making the
decision or whether it would fall to Ashcroft's replacement.
Cohen said it depended on whenever that replacement gets congressional
approval: "I just don't know, Judge."
The Wilson County case is already a complicated one, with the trial
expected to take about 5 weeks.
In addition to Marlowe and Hale, the defendants include Tommy Shane
Conatser, Robert Brian Ferrell and Robert Locke, each of whom faces
maximum penalties of 10 years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted.
Marlowe and Hale are already facing the possibility of life in prison if
The trial is expected to take place next spring.
(source: The Tennessean)
Guilt Beyond a Visceral Doubt?:----Questioning the Verdict in the Scott
Peterson Capital Murder Case
Lawyers call it the "Friday factor" -- jurors' inclination to come to a
verdict on Friday afternoons. It's unscientific but powerful, and it
seemed to be at work on Friday, November 12. That afternoon, one
particular jury -- sequestered and sworn to decide the fate of
double-murder defendant Scott Peterson -- surprised the nation by
announcing it had reached a verdict.
As readers very probably now, Peterson, now 32 years old, was charged with
the murders of his wife, Laci, and his unborn son.
The case had been submitted to the jury 9 days earlier. But that didn't
mean the jurors had deliberated for nine days. Instead, a very unusual
turn in the case, two of the original deliberating jurors had been
unceremoniously ousted and replaced by alternates during deliberations.
Under California law, that required deliberations to begin "anew" - so the
replacements could fully participate in the process, and so Peterson could
have the benefit of a true 12-person jury.
Thus, if jurors followed the legal instructions properly, the
deliberations that ended that Friday had begun only 7 hours earlier - when
the second alternate was seated. No wonder Peterson's well-known defense
attorney, Mark Geragos, had headed out of town. Who would have expected
this lengthy trial to come to a conclusion so quickly?
The trial had spanned five long months and included testimony from 175
prosecution witnesses. The defense, too, had put on a case - rather than
resting on its attacks on the prosecution's evidence. The case was widely
acknowledged by commentators to be difficult to prove - for it was based
on circumstantial evidence, and some of the evidence that ought to have
existed, based on the prosecutor's theory, seemed to be missing. Most
conspicuously, the prosecutor claimed Scott killed Laci in their house -
but there was no blood or similar evidence to bear out that contention.
Still, the jury managed to reach a quick verdict. And its verdict, as the
nation now knows, was "Guilty." One might have guessed it when the jury
members, entering the court room, did not meet Peterson's eye.
For Laci's killing, Scott Peterson was found guilty of murder in the 1st
degree - meaning the jury had found not only that he killed Laci, but he
did so in a premeditated and deliberate way. For Conner's killing,
Peterson was found guilty of murder in the 2nd-degree - suggesting the
jury did not find evidence of premeditation and deliberateness, as it had
for Laci's killing.
The result of the guilty verdicts is that Peterson may face the death
penalty. The penalty phase of the trial is set to begin Nov. 22.
Shocked commentators are now asking: With little direct physical or
forensic evidence tying killer to victim, how in the world did this jury
ultimately determine Peterson's guilt beyond a reasonable doubt?
Many expected the victim's families would win their civil cases, based on
the more forgiving "preponderance of the evidence" standard, but that the
criminal case jury would hang, or even acquit, because of the bald lack of
incontrovertible (or virtually incontrovertible) evidence of Peterson's
In this column, I will discuss a possible explanation for the verdict -
and for its speed. It will argue that the jurors' dislike for the
defendant may have provided prosecutors with a much needed shortcut in
their quest for a conviction.
The Prosecution's Thin, Poorly-Presented Case
The prosecution, despite its lengthy presentation, failed to convincingly
establish a definitive manner, means, or cause of Laci's tragic death.
Instead, it seemed, at times, to offer the jurors "multiple choice"
theories - refusing to settle on a single account of what actually
At times, the prosecution suggested that Scott killed Laci so he could
live a bachelor's life, unencumbered by wife or child. The again, it
suggested that Scott killed Laci so he could marry Amber Frey - whom he'd
known for barely 3 weeks - and move in with her and her young child. It
might as well have confessed the truth: It had no idea what Scott Peterson
might have been thinking.
The prosecution also had to, in effect, confess ignorance as to the means
and cause of Laci's death. It suggested Scott killed her in their house -
but as noted above, the lack of evidence at the house sharply undermines
that theory. Again, the truth is: The prosecution simply didn't know.
Jurors could choose their own theory; the prosecution didn't offer them
Finding the Reasonable Doubt Standard Was Met: How Did the Jury Do It?
Even a casual "Law & Order" fan knows that, in any criminal trial, the
burden is on the prosecution to prove the defendant's guilt beyond a
In California, "reasonable doubt" is defined as follows:
"It is not a mere possible doubt; because everything relating to human
affairs is open to some possible or imaginary doubt. It is that state of
the case which, after the entire comparison and consideration of all the
evidence, leaves the minds of the jurors in that condition that they
cannot say they feel an abiding conviction of the truth of the charge."
How could the jurors feel an "abiding conviction" of the truth of these
murder charges? Certainly, there was suspicious evidence: It would have
been a marked coincidence if Laci's body just happened to wash up near
where Scott was fishing the day she disappeared. But coincidences do
My own strong suspicion is that the jurors' "abiding conviction" came from
the infamous "Amber Frey" tapes - and it began as an abiding conviction
that Scott Peterson was a loathsome human being, and morphed into an
abiding conviction of his guilt.
The tapes provided no evidence at all that Scott Peterson killed his
pregnant wife. They showed, instead, that he'd cheated on his wife, he'd
lied to his mistress, and he wanted to keep right on lying and cheating
despite his wife's disappearance. They also demonstrated that Scott had an
uncanny ability to lie to even his closest family members, and exhibited a
painfully callous disregard for his missing, pregnant wife. While others
conducted a massive search effort and somber vigil, he tried to make sure
his mistress wouldn't leave him, now that she knew the truth.
Loathsome, yes; evidence of murder, no.
Yet the effect the tapes had on the jury probably dwarfed that of any
other evidence, any jury instruction, or any closing argument by counsel.
Tapes don't lie - and so they provided jurors with at least some certainty
in a very uncertain case.
More than that, the tapes provided the jury with a reason to hate Scott
Peterson. And they likely imbued the jury a desire -- maybe subliminal,
perhaps downright visceral -- to avenge the honor of a woman who
tragically died ignorant to it all.
Should the Amber Frey Tapes Have Been Excluded From Evidence? Perhaps So.
Should the Amber Frey tapes have been entered into evidence? Maybe not.
They contain no confession of guilt, no real clues to the crime, and no
proverbial smoking gun. They were arguably of little relevance to the
case. And they were unfairly prejudicial to Peterson - in that their
inevitable effect was to make jurors more likely to convict, but not to
demonstrate that Peterson's guilt was more likely.
That is the very epitome of the kind of unfairly prejudicial evidence that
judges often exclude. Jurors ought to be convicting defendants because
they believe, beyond a reasonable doubt, that they are guilty - and not
for another other reason. And judges ought to keep out the type of
irrelevant, or borderline relevant, evidence that practically invites
jurors to convict for a reason other than the defendants' guilt.
The tapes not only helped the prosecution, they also put the defense,
well, on the defensive. The tapes' proof that Scott Peterson was a Class A
cad required his attorney to, in effect, use his client's bad behavior as
a "theme" throughout the case. Geragos began his opening statement
explaining why his client's caddish behavior did not amount to murder. And
in his closing statement, he acknowledged jurors might well hate Peterson,
and ended with an even stronger term than "cad" -- calling his client,
quote, "a 14-carat a-hole." Geragos had no other choice. But it may have
seemed to jurors that even Peterson's own lawyer was disgusted by him.
Would the outcome of this trial have been different, had the judge
excluded the tapes from being admitted as evidence? I believe so. The
tapes, in my opinion, allowed the prosecution a convenient shortcut on the
road to guilty. Without the shortcut, the prosecution had no clear path -
indeed, it did not even have any single theory, as I discussed above. And
without the emphasis on Peterson's caddishness, Geragos could have spent
more time on the numerous evidentiary gaps and questions, and less time
admitting his own client's loathsomeness.
Certainly, every jury in a criminal trial is instructed not to be
"influenced by conjecture, sympathy, passion, prejudice, public opinion or
public feeling." But in reality, this instruction is little more than
legal fiction. Jurors can be instructed to check their emotions at the
courthouse door all day long, but until we replace human jurors with
robots, emotion is going to enter the deliberation process.
The bottom lines: The tapes were moving. They probably moved the jury to
anger, and even an impulse to somehow retrospectively protect an innocent
woman and her innocent, unborn child. No formal instruction from a judge
was going to take away that anger, or that impulse to protect.
Did this jury place emotion over substance and vote with its heart, not
its head? The world may - or may not - know. Jury deliberations are the
one portion of a criminal trial that occurs behind closed doors. But as in
the O.J. Simpson cases, juror tell-alls may prove quite bankable here. A
candid juror may well admit that the tapes were a bombshell - as I believe
they had to have been.
The jury has spoken, and the message is this: We may not know how Laci was
killed, when she died, or why it happened, but we know who is to blame. We
find the defendant guilty beyond a visceral doubt. If that is not a
verdict steeped in passion, I don't know what is.
What's Next For Scott Peterson: The Penalty Phase, and a Certain Appeal
>From the prosecution's perspective, the Amber Frey tapes - relevant or not
- just don't stop giving. Not only did they likely seal Peterson's doom in
the guilt phase, they may actually lead to his death in the penalty face.
Now, in light of the guilty verdicts, Geragos will have to argue why the
man he just called a "14-carat a-hole" should be allowed to live. And
there may not be much mitigating evidence to present to support that
contention - Peterson's not exactly a devoted dad who takes time off from
his environmental activism to work at soup kitchens on the weekends, but
snapped in a single moment of rage.
In the end, the real reason not to sentence Peterson to death - for one
who believes in the death penalty, as these jurors were required to - is
the same reason not to convict him in the first place: He genuinely may
not be guilty; the coincidence of Laci's body ending up near where he
fished may be just that: A coincidence.
Peterson's best chance at sentencing, then, may be to remind jurors of the
doubts that may have worried them - but that they dismissed - at the guilt
phase. Technically, guilt and innocence are not what sentencing is about:
Jurors look to "aggravating" factors counseling in favor of death, and
"mitigating" factors counseling against death. And possible innocence,
under the law is not a mitigating factor. Still, in practice, defendants
often re-raise "lingering" doubts about their guilt at the penalty phase -
and Peterson may well do the same.
Should Peterson be sentenced to death, an appeal is automatic. Should he
be sentenced to life without parole - the jury's only other option -- an
appeal is his right. It would be shocking if he declined to file one.
An appellate court very probably wouldn't 2nd-guess the trial court's
decision to allow the Amber Frey tapes into evidence. But it might well
2nd-guess the trial court's refusal to grant a mistrial despite recurrent
problems with - and dismissals of - jurors.
If another dismissed juror comes forward - as dismissed juror Justin
Falconer already has - and says he or she was leaning strongly toward
acquittal, the appellate court will doubtless take a close look at the
reasons why that juror, and Falconer, were dismissed. In sum, Peterson may
yet win a new trial on appeal - a trial where the jury stays the same from
beginning to end, or at least through its final deliberations.
(source : FindLaw -- Jonna M. Spilbor is a frequent guest commentator on
Court-TV and other television news networks, where she has covered many of
the nation's high-profile criminal trials. In the courtroom, she has
handled hundreds of cases as a criminal defense attorney, and also served
in the San Diego City Attorney's Office, Criminal Division, and the Office
of the United States Attorney in the Drug Task Force and Appellate units.
In 1998, she earned certification as a Court Appointed Special Advocate
with the San Diego Juvenile Court. She is a graduate of Thomas Jefferson
School of Law, where she was a member of the Law Review.)
2nd execution-murder suspect begins trial
The police confession of a young quadruple-murder suspect who allegedly
admitted his participation in the execution-style killings was involuntary
and should be tossed as evidence, according to a motion filed by his
The request is just one of the many pre-trial motions filed as the murder
trial of Raul Campos, 20, formally began yesterday. Although prosecutors
believe the request is simply a formality that will never be accepted by
Judge Stephen Hall, the motion would have dire consequences if allowed.
The confession is "the package," - the critical piece of evidence placing
Campos in the San Bruno apartment where 4 men were found bound and shot,
according to Chief Deputy District Attorney Steve Wagstaffe.
Hall is expected to rule on all the motions in the next 2 weeks. Jury
selection is scheduled for Nov. 29 with opening arguments in early
December. By the time a panel is picked to weigh his fate, Campos will be
inching near three years in custody for his alleged role in the Jan. 11,
2002 murders which shook San Bruno by their cold violence and nearly
$250,000 in drugs found throughout the drug scene.
4 men are assumed responsible for the deaths of the 4 men in the Evergreen
Ridge apartment but only Campos and Alfredo Valenzuela were ever arrested.
Valenzuela, 24, was convicted on the same 4 counts of 1st-degree murder
and robbery now faced by Campos.
If also found guilty, Campos will receive multiple life sentences for the
deaths of Javier Vaca, 21, Jose Alberto Munoz-Lopez, 21, Emilio
Alba-Flores, 20, and Roberto Ramos-Guerra, 18. District Attorney Jim Fox
decided against seeking the death penalty in both cases.
Valenzuela and Campos were reportedly drug runners for Jorge "Chico"
Hernandez, Giannini said. After fighting with Vaca over a drug debt,
Hernandez enlisted Valenzuela, Campos and Lazaro Perez to drive from Los
Angeles to San Bruno to collect.
By the end of their visit to Vaca, the 4 victims were dead but $250,000
worth of cocaine was left hidden in the kitchen.
The 4 suspects reportedly drove back to Southern California and parted
company. Campos and Valenzuela were arrested within the month but the
other 2 escaped. Perez remains at large and Hernandez was fatally shot in
Mexico earlier this year.
During a police interview following his arrest, Campos, then 17, admitted
participating in the killing but claimed they were not pre-meditated acts.
No physical evidence tied Valenzuela or Campos directly to the scene.
Camps remains in custody on no-bail status.
(source: San Mateo Daily Journal)
El Centro man on death row gets 2 more court dates
A convicted murderer on death row will get at least 2 more court dates in
a Yuma County courtroom in the coming months.
Superior Court Judge Tom Thode, during a hearing held by telephone in his
chambers on Monday, ruled there was a need for a hearing to determine if
there is any exculpatory evidence in the case of Bobby Lee Tankersley.
Exculpatory evidence is alleged evidence that could establish a criminal's
innocence. The hearing, which Thode set for 9:30 a.m. Nov. 29, is expected
to last up to 2 days.
The state requested permission to present its rebuttal to the alleged
evidence, but at a later date. Thode then set 1:30 p.m. Dec. 13 for that
hearing, which isn't expected to last more than a day.
Tankersley, who is from El Centro, was sentenced to die by a Yuma County
Superior Court Judge in May 1993. He had been found guilty of fatally
strangling 65-year-old Thelma Younkin with her own oxygen hose in a 1st
Street motel room.
(source: Yuma Sun)
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