[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----OHIO, TEXAS, USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 16 15:23:34 CST 2004
Lawmaker: Death Penalty Study Won't Pass This Year----House Passed Bill
A requirement that Ohio conduct an exhaustive study of the state's capital
punishment system won't move any further in the Legislature this year,
Senate President Doug White said Tuesday.
White, a southern Ohio Republican who supports the death penalty, said he
won't allow the requirement up for a vote in the Senate.
White doesn't want a bill that significant being debated the last few
weeks of a lame-duck session, he said.
"It's not this one particularly, but it's the issues that are going to
cause a lot of consternation and debate and discussion. I'm just not
willing to put it on," White said.
The death penalty has been administered fairly in Ohio, he said.
"I'm comfortable with where we are and how the death penalty's worked in
Ohio. I don't think we've abused it," he said.
The House passed the bill last week after a group of Republican lawmakers,
including several Roman Catholics opposed to the death penalty, teamed up
with Democrats to add the requirement to an unrelated sentencing bill.
The House vote was a victory for Rep. Shirley Smith of Cleveland, a
Democrat who's tried since 2000 to pass the bill. She was disappointed by
White's announcement Tuesday.
"Here is a study that won't hurt or harm anybody," she said. "It's almost
like we're hiding something that we don't want to come out."
The bill would require the state to review the cases of all people who
faced the death penalty in Ohio since the state re-imposed capital
punishment in 1981.
(source: NBC News)
Bill allows compensation of state's wrongly accused -- The current law
requires a letter about innocence from the office of convicting DA
A bill that would make it possible to financially compensate a man
incarcerated for more than 4 years for a rape that new DNA testing says he
didn't commit will be introduced during next year's session of the Texas
State Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, will sponsor the bill, which would
remove current obstacles preventing Josiah Sutton and any other prisoner
who may be exonerated in the wake of the Houston Police Department crime
laboratory scandal - from collecting compensation for time wrongly served
"You would think that after these individuals have been forced to suffer
in prison for a crime they did not commit, the state would be willing to
spend at least as much on trying to help them put their lives back
together as they spent on locking them up," said Ellis in a press release.
Sutton was convicted of a 1998 rape primarily on DNA evidence processed by
the HPD DNA lab, which was shut down in December 2002 because of poor
scientific practices and a substandard facility.
In March 2003, new DNA tests excluded Sutton as a suspect in the attack.
He was subsequently pardoned by Gov. Rick Perry, and released from prison.
However, a law providing compensation for people wrongly imprisoned was of
no help to Sutton because of a change that was added last year without the
knowledge of Ellis, who sponsored the original legislation.
The provision added a requirement that people seeking state reparations
get a letter from the district attorney whose office prosecuted them,
certifying their "actual innocence."
Sutton is currently eligible for $100,000. Harris County District Attorney
Chuck Rosenthal has refused to write the letter necessary for Sutton to
Ellis' new bill would bypass the need for district attorneys to sign off
on the compensation.
The measure would also raise compensation from $25,000 to $50,000 for each
year a person is wrongly incarcerated, with a cap of $1 million.
Ellis will also sponsor a bill banning executions of the mentally
retarded.The legislation would require a pretrial hearing to determine
whether an offender is mentally retarded.
Ellis tried to pass similar measures in the past 3 session of the
(source: Houston Chronicle)
Decades Later, Rosenberg Case Again Ignites Passions
The Rosenberg clan - the circle of defenders and sympathizers that has
come together for half a century on behalf of Julius and Ethel Rosenberg -
gathered once again yesterday, but this time the emphasis was as much on
family as it was on politics.
A documentary film about the case and its consequences for the Rosenberg
family made by a granddaughter of the couple, Ivy Meeropol, was shown at
the Museum of Jewish Heritage, in Lower Manhattan. The Rosenbergs were
convicted of passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union and were executed
Many of the 200 people in the audience carried placards a half-century ago
pleading for clemency for the Rosenbergs. They and others were in tears at
seeing the film, titled "Heir to an Execution: A Granddaughter's Story,"
stung not just by what they consider a miscarriage of justice but also by
how it has continued to haunt the family.
The Rosenbergs' sons, Michael and Robert, were 10 and 6, respectively,
when their parents were executed. They were adopted by 2 left-wing
intellectuals, Abel and Anne Meeropol, soon afterward. The sons have
wrestled with cables disclosed by the C.I.A. a decade ago that indicated
Julius Rosenberg was a spy with the code name "Liberal" during World War
Since then, "my brother and I have had to live with the possibility that
unlike the lies told about them before, this could be true," Michael
Meeropol, now 61 and a professor of economics at Western New England
College in Springfield, Mass., said in an interview before the film was
shown. "And we've asked ourselves, what does it mean if it is true? We can
live with that and we can live with the ambiguity of never being sure."
His daughter, Ivy, 36, is shown in the film wiping away tears as she looks
at photographs and archival film of the Rosenbergs as a seemingly
unremarkable Lower East Side couple idling on the grass in Central Park
and hoisting their children on their shoulders at the beach. Then there
are the jarring contrasts after their arrests - of the Rosenbergs kissing
desperately in a van carrying them to jail or their sons ambling among the
tall walls of Sing Sing prison to visit them in the weeks before they died
in the electric chair.
Ivy is shown deeply upset as she tries to contact relatives who still do
not want to have anything to do with the family and at letters sent by
Ethel telling her sons that she loved them but that she and Julius "could
not wrong our conscience."
One audience member, Ruth Alscher-Green of Manhattan, was a teacher who
was questioned by a grand jury in the case but was never charged. Because
she invoked her Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination, she
said, she could not find a teaching job for 6 years. As a mother of 3
children, she still has trouble understanding why Ethel Rosenberg did not
do more to save herself.
"From Ethel's point of view, she might have had to make up something to
accuse Julius and exonerate herself, and maybe that's not something she
wanted to do," Ms. Alscher-Green said. "It's hard for me as a mother. I
would have done anything to keep alive for my children. But I have a
The Rosenberg story is like the trial of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Alger
Hiss spy case and the assassination of President John F. Kennedy - one of
those events with enough loose threads and charged feelings to inspire
passions that have lingered for decades. It also is an emblem of an era
when tens of thousands of young people, despairing at the Depression and
the persistence of poverty, joined the Communist Party, with some willing
to betray their own country. In the film, Miriam Moskowitz, who befriended
Ethel in jail, said, "You had to be dead from the neck up not to feel
The Rosenbergs, along with their friend Morton Sobell, were charged with
passing atomic secrets to the Soviet Union during World War II, when the
Soviet Union was an ally.
Julius Rosenberg, who came from a Yiddish-speaking immigrant home and
studied electrical engineering at City College, was accused of recruiting
his brother-in-law, David Greenglass, a machinist in Los Alamos, N.M.,
where the first atom bombs were being designed, as a spy. Mr. Greenglass,
testifying for the prosecution, said that he had obtained crude sketches
of a cross-section of the bomb and a crucial device known as a
high-explosive lens mold and passed them to Julius. To spare his wife,
Ruth, prosecution, he testified that Ethel had typed many of Julius's
messages, a charge he recanted many years after the trial.
Despite various disclosures during the years about Julius Rosenberg,
defenders have argued that the information he passed was inconsequential
and was already known by the Soviets. The defenders have drawn the most
sympathy in arguing that Ethel's role was at best secretarial. In answer
to a question, Mr. Meeropol said that a judge, Irving Kaufman, and two
prosecutors, Irving Saypol and Roy Cohn, tried to show how tough they
could be on fellow Jews to avoid setting off criticism from anti-Semites.
Josephine Abrams, 79, a retired teacher from Manhattan, said she came to
the museum to remember "a horrifying time, a hysterical time."
"Anyone who signed a petition or carried a placard could be thrown into
jail, and maybe executed," she said. "We're living in such a scary time
now that maybe the same thing could happen again."
>From the stage, Mr. Meeropol made a similar comment. He said the fact that
the Soviet Union had built an atomic bomb did not justify shredding
Constitutional rights, and that the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001, did not
justify trampling on the rights of Arab or Muslim immigrants.
"It remains a cautionary tale," he said of the Rosenberg case. "It's the
most extreme example of when you let government have their way with
political prosecutions and just to be safe you're willing to give up some
(source: New York Times)
Crime labs in disarray over DNA profiles, report says
Nearly 2 years after the U.S. government allocated $28.5 million to help
state and local crime labs reduce a massive backlog of untested DNA
samples, less than half of the money has been used, a Justice Department
report said Monday.
The federal DNA initiative was touted as a way to speed up investigations
into thousands of homicides, rapes and other crimes. It is in such
disarray that Justice Department inspectors were unable to determine
precisely how many DNA analyses had been done as part of the program,
which has spent about $11.6 million.
Monday's report by Glenn Fine, the Justice Department's inspector general,
reflected the difficulty federal officials have had in building a national
DNA database that includes information from state crime-lab databases.
Some states, such as Virginia, have spent millions of dollars to build
databases to help create the federal system; several other states have not
made DNA testing such a high priority.
The federal database, maintained by the FBI, includes more than 1.7
million profiles. The database is used by crime labs nationwide to match
DNA evidence from unsolved crimes to such evidence from other crime scenes
DNA, which can be present in blood, saliva, semen and other evidence,
holds an individual's unique genetic code.
Fine's report also said that communication between states and the federal
database was a problem. The report said that more than 2,500 completed DNA
profiles have not been added to the FBI's Combined DNA Index System
(CODIS), delaying the profiles' usefulness in criminal investigations.
In some cases, DNA analyses had been completed for more than a year and
not been cataloged with the FBI database.
"The crime-fighting potential of these profiles cannot be realized until
they are uploaded into the CODIS, where they can be matched to convicted
offenders or other crime-scene evidence," the report said.
Earlier this year, the Justice Department estimated that more than 540,000
criminal cases involving biological evidence were awaiting DNA testing in
state and local laboratories. That number included 52,000 murders and
169,000 sexual assaults.
"In our judgment, significant delays in drawing down funding serve as
indicators that state grantees are not using program funds to increase
their analytic capacity," said the report, which called for DNA database
managers to make sure that completed profiles are filed with the FBI
repository more quickly."
(source: USA Today)
After Ashcroft A critic of the attorney general explains why he thinks the
outgoing Bush appointee is the 'one of the worst weve ever had' - and
whether the presidents new choice will be any better
President George W. Bush announced Wednesday that he had selected White
House counsel Alberto Gonzales as his nominee to succeed outgoing Attorney
General John Ashcroft. A polarizing figure in the Bush administrations
first term, Ashcroft was instrumental in creating the USA Patriot Act,
tightening enforcement of immigration laws and overseeing changes at the
FBI to bolster its counterterrorism role. In a 5-page handwritten letter,
Ashcroft, the nation's top federal law-enforcement official, told the
president: "The objective of securing the safety of Americans from crime
and terror has been achieved - Americans have been spared the violence and
savagery of terrorist attacks on our soil since September 11, 2001."
Throughout his tenure, Ashcroft was a lighting-rod to his detractors. They
claim the Patriot Act goes too far in restricting civil liberties and that
the Department of Justice rashly rounded up thousands of Muslim and Arab
men on immigration charges, ultimately convicting none of them with
terrorism. Georgetown University Law Center professor David Cole is one
such critic. The author of last year's "Enemy Aliens: Double Standards and
Constitutional Freedoms in the War on Terrorism" ( New Press ) goes so far
as to claim that Ashcroft was "one of the worst" attorney generals in the
countrys history and that new nominee Gonzales does not instill much more
Cole spoke with NEWSWEEKs Brian Braiker about the outgoing attorney
generals legacy. Excerpts:
NEWSWEEK: What do you think Ashcrofts legacy will be? David Cole: I think
his legacy is going to be as one of the worst attorney generals weve ever
had, not only in terms of the constitutional freedoms this country stands
for but also in terms of national security.
Those are two different things. National security, how so? I think that
his overzealous reaction to the attacks of September 11, his sweeping
practices, have created so much resentment and animosity within the Arab
and Muslim world - both in the United States and, more troublingly,
What specifically are you talking about? Well, his campaign to target
foreign nationals from Arab and Muslim countries, to subject them to
detention without charge, secret hearings, secret trials. [He] ultimately
detained over 5,000 foreign nationals in antiterrorism
preventive-detention measures since 9/11not one of whom stands convicted
of any terrorist crime today. Hes 0 for 5,000. He called in 80,000 people
for special registration simply because they were foreign nationals from
Arab and Muslim countries, not one convicted of any terrorist crime.
Another 8,000 were sought out for FBI interviews simply because they were
men from Arab and Muslim countries. Again, not one identified as a
terrorist. I think that has played a large role in the growing and
unprecedented anti-American resentment around the world.
But the people who did attack the United States, and most likely will
attack again, are from Arab and Muslim countries. Is it unfair to say that
Ashcroft shouldnt have been keeping an eye on certain groups? No, its
perfectly acceptable to say were looking for a group of terrorists who are
comprised largely of Arab and Muslim men. But to go from that to treating
every Arab and Muslim foreign national a suspect by virtue of simply being
an Arab or Muslim foreign national, thats the problem. There are 1.3
billion Muslims in the world and 280 million Arabs in the world. At the
highest count there are 10,000 people who went to an Al Qaeda training
camp at one point, so its a very, very overinclusive criterion. Look at
John Ashcrofts record as compared to the militarys in terms of capturing
Al Qaeda people. The military has allegedly captured three quarters of Al
Qaedas leadersnot one of them in the United States.
Thats what they claim. There has been some questioning of that figure.
Thats what they claim. Theyve certainly captured many; they killed many. I
think the offensive in Afghanistan can take significant credit for the
fact that there has not been a terrorist attack in the United States since
9/11. They have concrete results that they can point to. By contrast, what
can John Ashcroft show us?
In your opinion, did Ashcroft do anything well as attorney general? I do
think that there have been a number of measures taken that have made us
safer. I think putting more resources into fighting terrorism, getting the
various agencies within the government to communicate with each other
about the information they have. Thats not Ashcroft per se, although he
has a role in it because the FBI was a big part of that problem.
What would you have done if you were John Ashcroft? I think where he lost
an opportunity was in not reaching out to the Arab and Muslim community in
the wake of 9/11, not trying to develop the human intelligence that we so
badly need if were actually going to find terrorists.
Well, the Patriot Act was designed to gather some of that intelligence.
How would you characterize that legislation? Some of the Patriot Act is
noncontroversial. There are other provisions that many people have
justifiably called into question on the ground that they give the
government too much authority unchecked by judicial review.
Can you give a quick example? The authority to retrieve records on any
U.S. citizen or foreign national from any entity that keeps records on
that individual without having to show any basis for believing that the
individual was engaged in any [unlawful] activity.
What do you know about Alberto Gonzales? What we know about Gonzales is
not very reassuring. We know that Gonzales is the person who called the
Geneva conventions quaint and argued very forcefully in favor of refusing
to extend its protections to the people being held in Guantanamo - and in
part urged that view so that they could be subjected to coercive
interrogation tactics. We also know from a New York Times account of the
debates that surrounded the development of the military tribunal policy
down in Guantanamo that in those debates John Ashcroft was actually the
voice of reason and Alberto Gonzales was lined up with the most extreme
right-wing voices arguing that there should be virtually no rights to the
people who are being tried - in some cases for the death penalty.
Do you think therell be difficulty having his appointment confirmed? Well,
I think that his hand is all over these torture memos. The August 2002
memo from the [Department of Justice's] office of legal counsel that
essentially authorizes torture went to Alberto Gonzales and he did nothing
to repudiate it until a year-plus later when it was leaked to the public.
His ties to the torture issue and to the treatment of the Guantanamo
detainees may pose some difficulties for him in the nomination process.
And they certainly should.
(source: Newsweek, Nov. 10)
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