[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----TEXAS, FLA., ILL., USA, MD.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Thu Nov 18 15:17:54 CST 2004
Nuremberg Mayor Pleads for Texas Killer
Ulrich Maly, the mayor of the Bavarian town Nuremberg, has pleaded for
clemency for an inmate on Texas' death row. Troy Albert Kunkle, a US
citizen who was born in Nuremberg and whose mother is German, is scheduled
to be executed on Thursday evening by lethal injection for a 1984 robbery
that ended in murder. Maly said Kunkle, who was 18 years old at the time
and allegedly drunk and under the influence of drugs, should have his
sentence commuted to life in prison. Kunkle was to be executed on July 7,
but the date was postponed until Nov. 18. In his plea to Texas Governor
Rick Perry, Maly said Kunkle had to pay the consequences of his actions,
however, the death penalty was "gruesome and inhumane." Texas last
executed someone on Wednesday, the 23rd time this year.
(source: Deutsche Welle (Germany)
Local man to be executed today for slaying in 1984----Kunkle convicted of
killing during robbery
Texas death row inmate Troy Kunkle is scheduled to die by lethal injection
at 6 p.m. today for the 1984 murder of a Corpus Christi man.
The U.S. Supreme Court issued a stay on Kunkle's last scheduled execution
date, July 7, after his lawyers filed a writ with the court. The lawyers
asked the justices to decide whether Texas courts have been applying an
unconstitutional standard that did not allow juries to consider mitigating
circumstances, such as mental illness, during capital murder trials.
Last month, the court refused to review the case and officials scheduled
Kunkle, 38, declined several interview requests by the Caller-Times. But
his wife, who he married Oct. 5, said in an e-mail that Kunkle is "ready
to leave this world in peace" and has "regretted his offense and thought
of his victim every day."
Kunkle was convicted of the capital murder of Steven Horton, 31, in 1984.
According to the Texas Department of Criminal Justice, Kunkle, who was 18
at the time, and his friends, Lora Lee Zaiontz, Russell Stanley and Aaron
Adkins, were visiting Corpus Christi from San Antonio.
According to the state's report, Kunkle picked up Horton, who was walking
along Paul Jones Avenue, and demanded his wallet containing $13. Kunkle
then told Stanley to kill Horton, state documents said. When Stanley
refused, Kunkle shot Horton with a .22-caliber pistol. After the death,
Kunkle reportedly quoted lyrics from heavy metal band Metallica's song "No
Remorse," from the album "Kill 'em All," when he said, "Another day,
another death, another sorrow, another breath."
Horton's family will not attend the execution. Horton's father, Nolan
Horton, 75, said his age and health prevent him from witnessing the
execution he has been anticipating for a long time.
"It's been over 20 years and we still don't have anything resolved," he
said. The Hortons will wait at their Corpus Christi house for word from
Kunkle is scheduled to be the 24th person to be executed by the state this
(source: Corpus Christi Caller-Times)
Sentencing option won't add to prison violence
My repeated efforts to widen sentencing options in this state have been
continually rebuffed, even as more Texans support allowing jurors to
impose sentences of life in prison without the possibility of parole.
Recent polls show that the life-without-parole option is more popular with
Texas residents than it is with their elected representatives.
For the past three regular sessions, I have filed legislation that would
add a "true" life-without-parole sentencing option in Texas, only to see
the bills fail.
As it stands today, in capital cases, Texas juries have 2 options. They
can either sentence the offender to death or to life in prison. However,
life in prison presently means that the defendant can become eligible for
parole after serving 40 years.
One of the greatest challenges has been the argument by some legislators
and prosecutors that adding this option would result in more violent
prisoners - those with no hope for parole. This new class of inmates would
have little incentive to behave.
However, there is support for the legislation from other legislators,
prosecutors and, most importantly, the general public. In fact, poll
results from February 2003 indicate that 72 % of Texans support changing
the law to allow life in prison without parole. Why, then, has this
sentencing option not become law?
Although difficult to change perception, this coming session I intend to
attempt that once again by refiling this bill. I will work to ensure that
the entire Legislature is fully informed of a 15-year study conducted in
Missouri that compared the institutional violence rates of 323
life-without-parole inmates with 232 life-with-parole inmates and found
that the life-without-parole inmates were not more dangerous or violent
than the other inmates. They will all have the opportunity to review other
research indicating that, generally, as inmates get older in prison, their
propensity for violent or dangerous behavior decreases.
I plan to invite prison administrators in states with a
life-without-parole sentencing option to testify during the bill process.
They have informed me that this type of prisoner presented no
extraordinary disciplinary problems as compared to other offenders.
Instead, it makes more sense that these inmates would want to avoid
behavior that would lead to more punishment. Since they will remain
incarcerated for the rest of their lives, life-without-parole inmates can
only look forward to the awarding of privileges such as recreation and
visitation - key motivators to good behavior.
A more compelling argument that these inmates pose no greater disciplinary
problems is that 47 other states in the nation have a life-without-parole
sentencing option. And if the other states are capable of handling these
prisoners, Texas should be, also.
I can imagine the arduous process that jurors must undertake when deciding
the outcome of a particular case. That process becomes even more difficult
during the sentencing phase, as jurors must determine the most appropriate
Often, jurors are conflicted about whether to sentence dangerous offenders
with mental retardation or a mental illness to death, yet they must do so
because there is no assurance that the defendant will remain behind bars.
Last May, Gov. Rick Perry cited the lack of a life-without-parole
sentencing option in his decision not to commute the death sentence of
Kelsey Patterson, who had a lengthy history of mental illness, despite the
Board of Pardons and Paroles 5-1 recommendation to do so. In making this
decision, Gov. Perry stated, "Texas has no life-without-parole sentencing
option, and no one can guarantee this defendant would never be freed to
commit other crimes were his sentence commuted."
A life-without-parole sentencing option would help ensure that these
offenders do not have the potential to pose a danger to the public again.
Texas juries deserve this option. Our death penalty process has been
routinely criticized by others throughout the nation and world. And now is
the time to bring more integrity to the process.
Like many Texans, I support the death penalty. Frankly, there are some
crimes in which justice can only be served by such a sentence. However, I
also believe in giving Texas juries all of the available tools when making
Now is the time to address this matter, and I look forward to the
governors and the Legislatures support next session in giving our juries
this sentencing option.
(source: Harlingen Valley Morning Star -- Eddie Lucio is a Democratic
state senator from Brownsville. He can be contacted at 512-463-0127,
548-0227 or 968-9927.)
That smarts: Justice flunks the test
"Allow me to introduce myself. My name is Coyote . . . Wile E. Coyote. I
am a genius, whilst you could hardly pass the entrance examination into
kindergarten." ---- Wile E. Coyote
So I'm no Wile E. Coyote, super genius - or even just a run-of-the-mill
genius for that matter.
However, I am a "word warrior."
Therefore, I am entitled to unleash my sword from its scabbard. I just
can't use it to kill anybody, that is unless I want to face the
possibility of execution.
In dumbfounding fashion, the U.S. Supreme Court overturned the death
sentence of a convicted Texas killer Monday, citing the jury was not made
aware of his alleged mental retardation and learning disabilities.
The highest court in the land said the jury might have opposed LaRoyce
Lathair Smith's death sentence had it known of his low IQ scores and
participation in special education classes.
Smith was convicted and sentenced to death for killing a Taco Bell manager
in Dallas in 1991.
According to the court's logic, Smith's IQ was so low he did not know it
was wrong to pistol whip, shoot and stab a person to death with a butcher
Right on the heels of the Supremes, state Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston,
filed a bill Monday that would require a hearing to determine a
defendant's mental capacity in a capital murder case.
Smart move, as long as IQ tests are not the sole determinant.
For some reason, the cutoff point between life and death has been set at
70 - that is, an IQ of 70 or below exempts a person from capital
Outside of losing a college football game, murder has never really been a
personal issue. And it's a good thing, because if IQ tests are in any way
valid, I'm on death row.
Granted, the hokey IQ tests found on the Internet may not be as thorough
or official as other tests, but perhaps they can provide an example of how
justice and intelligence are 2 different things.
One test described me as a "word warrior," meaning I have exceptional
verbal skills, including an IQ of 120. Another test scored me a 136, with
anything between 129-143 being "highly intelligent."
That pretty much kills my chances of getting off.
Stupid is as stupid does, but should having the intelligence to correctly
answer whether 5 horses, 2 people, 3 dogs and 7 chickens equals a total of
52 legs make a person eligible for lethal injection? Or how about not
knowing if the word "smart" can be created using 5 letters from the word
"barnstorm?" Miss it, and you live.
According to one Web site, an IQ test "measures a person's mental
abilities relative to others of approximately the same age. Everyone has
hundreds of specific mental abilities - some can be measured accurately
and are reliable predictors of academic and financial success."
An IQ score of 70 is one thing, but reason is another.
Does a person have a low IQ because of a learning disability or a lack of
education? Is the person incapable of learning or simply ignorant?
Regardless, is there any correlation between a low IQ and knowing the
difference between right and wrong?
There is hope for me, though, just in case I ever decide to off somebody.
After completing one Internet IQ test, I was informed I would have to fork
over $9.95 to get my results.
Anyone with any brains would have seen that coming.
Short and sweet
(source: Opinion, Dave Henry, who is an editorial writer for the Amarillo
2 federal grants boost HPD crime lab----One may help gain accreditation;
one is for testing
The Houston Police Department's beleaguered DNA lab received a boost in
its effort to resume operations Wednesday when the City Council accepted a
$487,000 federal grant to train employees and purchase equipment.
The council also accepted a separate $509,000 federal grant to conduct DNA
testing in criminal cases that have no suspects, said Larry Yium, HPD's
Both grants were from the National Institute of Justice.
Yium said the $487,000 grant "will help us get accredited." In 2003, the
Texas Legislature passed a law requiring DNA labs to be accredited, he
Yium said an inspection team from an accrediting body visited the lab in
September, and HPD expects the findings to be released later this year.
The DNA lab was closed after an independent audit found widespread
problems with the quality of work there.
Since January 2003, HPD and the Harris County District Attorney's Office
have been retesting DNA evidence used for convictions in about 380 cases.
The training grant runs from Dec. 1 through June 30.
The $509,000 grant lasts from Dec. 1 through May 31, 2006. Typically,
police departments lack money to conduct DNA testing on cases without
suspects, Yium said.
This program will help build a national DNA data bank that can be accessed
by various law enforcement agencies.
HPD received similar grants in the last 2 years totaling $1.9 million,
(source: Houston Chronicle)
MAN INDICTED IN WIFE'S SLAYING----Death penalty ruled out in SFCC slaying
Prosecutors will not seek the death penalty against a Gainesville man
indicted Wednesday in the stabbing death of his wife at Santa Fe Community
College last month.
Samuel White, 36, is accused of 1st-degree murder in the stabbing death of
his wife, Derother Denise White, 35. Witnesses said Samuel White, a
hospital employee, walked into his estranged wife's SFCC office on Oct. 27
and attacked her as she was working.
The man ran out, escaping from others who tried to stop him. But a
description of his car helped lead to his capture in Virginia the next
day. He was extradited back to Florida last week.
"The nature of the killing itself, while certainly violent and gruesome,
is not in the scheme of what the death penalty contemplates as
exceptional," said State Attorney Bill Cervone after the Alachua County
grand jury returned the indictment.
The area's chief prosecutor also said White has no prior criminal history
that would be a factor in arguing for a death sentence.
White, he said, does have prior misdemeanor convictions regarding domestic
Cervone said the attack appears to have been related to an ongoing custody
dispute between the 2.
A restraining order had been issued against Samuel White, and a court
hearing over the couple's children had been scheduled the day after the
Cervone also said the husband apparently had been drinking the night
before his wife's death.
"But certainly not to the extent where I believe it mitigates his guilt,"
Derother White had started at SFCC in August and was a Temp Force employee
who counseled at-risk students in the college's Job Training Center.
She had 4 children, ranging in age from 8 to 15. Relatives said the 3
youngest are the couple's.
The case against Samuel White could go to trial in late spring or early
summer next year, Cervone estimated.
(source: Gainesville Sun)
ILLINOIS----female could face death penalty
Mitchell guilty but mentally ill
In St. Charles Township, Vivian Mitchell was found guilty but mentally ill
on 13 charges Wednesday in the brutal stabbing death of Lynn Weis.
The courtroom - packed with police, the victim's friends and family, and
Mitchell's family - remained silent, as did Mitchell, while 16th Circuit
Court Judge Patricia Piper Golden read her verdict.
Mitchell, a 40-year-old drifter, was found guilty on charges including 6
counts of 1st-degree murder, home invasion, aggravated arson, forgery and
unlawful use of a credit card.
Piper Golden ruled Mitchell innocent of the armed robbery charge against
her, saying it was not proven that Weis' purses, checkbook or credit cards
were not already in her car when Mitchell left Weis' West Dundee home in
Mitchell's attorney, Public Defender David Kliment, said he was
disappointed but not surprised by the verdict. An appeal is automatic, as
the Kane County State's Attorney's Office plans to request the death
Mitchell had pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity.
Mental health officials agreed that she believes a multicultural hate
group has worked since 1996 to ruin her life - spreading rumors about her
that have made it impossible for her to maintain a job, as well as
shooting at her and following her at various times.
The guilty but mentally ill ruling means Mitchell is still eligible for
the death penalty.
"It was a premeditated crime," said Assistant State's Attorney Robert
And, he said, it happened in the one place where people should feel safe -
"We are pleased with the outcome. The judge paid hard attention to all of
the evidence," Berlin said.
Mitchell will be eligible for mental health services while in prison.
The verdict ended a bench trial that spanned 6 days and included the
testimony of dueling mental health experts - one who said Mitchell was
insane at the time of the murder and one who said Mitchell could
appreciate the criminality of her actions.
In her explanation of the decision, Piper Golden said her difficulties
with the insanity defense came from Mitchell's statements on the stand.
Those included Mitchell's assertion that a coin purse found in a truck
she'd burglarized on the morning before the murder wasn't purchased until
after Weis' death and that at least one of the investigating police
officers had followed Mitchell to a church before the murder.
At the time of her arrest, Mitchell told police she'd either met Weis at
Public Action to Deliver Shelter, agency that serves the homeless in
Elgin, or when Weis offered her a ride from Elgin to the Dundees.
Weis, 32, a buyer at Sears in Hoffman Estates, was found naked in a pool
of blood on her bathroom floor in the early morning hours of March 17,
2003. Firefighters had been called to the house along Illinois 31 for a
None of the 81 stab wounds to Weis' body hit a major organ or artery, the
medical examiner said, and Weis died slowly from blood loss.
Mitchell was arrested in Weis' car on March 18 in Joliet. 2 bloody knives,
a bottle of lighter fluid, a hammer, and Weis' purse, checkbook and credit
cards also were in the car.
Mitchell testified Monday that she'd found the car on Illinois 31 with
Weis' belongings scattered around it. She knew stealing a car was wrong,
Mitchell said, but felt desperate.
"She had few details about where the car was," Piper Golden said.
No date has been set for sentencing. A status hearing was set for Dec. 8.
(source: Suburban Chicago Newspapers)
Ashcroft's Last Stand
If ever a man deserved the death penalty, it's Joseph C. Massino. The
61-year-old restaurant owner and family man -- and what a family it is --
was convicted in July of various crimes, including several murders, all of
them connected to his line of work, which is running New York's Bonanno
crime organization. For all of that, he faces spending the rest of his
life in prison. But Massino is about to go on trial for yet another murder
-- his eighth (or so) -- and for this one Attorney General John Ashcroft
is demanding the death penalty. For once Ashcroft is right.
In fact, he is better than right. He is performing a public service of the
sort that has eluded him in his time in office. By insisting that Massino
die if convicted of the 8th murder, allegedly ordered in 1999, the
attorney general has inadvertently illustrated what is so rotten and
unfair about the death penalty itself. It turns out that Mafia bosses, no
matter what they have done, are almost never executed for their crimes.
More to the point -- my point, anyway -- Hispanic and African American
gang leaders are granted no such immunity. About 130 of them, gang members
or leaders, have faced the death penalty since 1988. The figure for Mafia
members is a bit different: 1. Now, if life were a movie, Massino would
turn to his consigliere and tell him to get to the politicians and
journalists on the family's payroll so that they could have capital
punishment abolished. That's not about to happen, not just because life is
not a movie and the mob ain't what it used to be but because capital
punishment has, like religion or the flag, inserted itself into the very
core of American political life. Politicians are afraid to say what they
really think about capital punishment -- or, worse, they sincerely endorse
it, almost never citing the only reason that makes any sense at all:
vengeance. All the rest -- closure, proportionality, finality and
especially deterrence -- have been disproved, revealed as sloppy thinking
or as junk science that cannot withstand examination. We are down to the
ineffable -- a feeling -- and it will have to do.
Ashcroft's order to Massino's prosecutors is part of his herculean effort
to spruce up the death penalty, to make it presentable by eliminating
bias. It can't be done. The ultimate bias is identification -- the extent
to which the jury can identify with the defendant. This, essentially, is
what happened in the O.J. Simpson case, which is why he walked. It is what
happens all the time when juries have to decide to take the lives of
people like them. It is a lot easier if the defendant is caricatured as an
animal -- fierce, merciless and beyond rehabilitation. That's easier to do
with minority gang-bangers than with middle-aged mobsters who sometimes
have an avuncular demeanor and a loving immediate family. Mostly, the
death penalty is reserved for society's outcasts.
All over the world, the death penalty is on the way out, a vestige of a
discredited way of thinking. You may assume I am referring to the biblical
eye-for-an-eye injunction, but I am not. Instead, I mean the naive belief
in science, in perfection, in a criminal justice system that works so
flawlessly that the wrong person is never executed. The electric chair
itself was the fruit of such thinking, a device that was supposed to kill
painlessly and quickly. It did neither, which is why it is now rarely
used. Still, we continue to yearn for assurance that only the guilty die
at the hands of the state, recently enlisting DNA testing for that
purpose. But DNA is not a factor in many killings -- drive-by shootings,
for instance -- so mistakes can still happen. Without a doubt, they do.
In the incessant babble about values, capital punishment is seldom
mentioned. But it is one, twice over. The first value is humility, an
acknowledgment that mistakes are made and, after execution, cannot be
rectified. The second is where history instructs and conservatives and
liberals ought to agree: The power to take life is too awesome to be
granted to government. This is where Ashcroft should make his farewell
stand -- not, as he has, on making something better so that it can be so
(source: Column, Richard Cohen, Washington Post)
World's largest DNA lab reports fraud
The world's largest private DNA testing firm has fired an analyst for
allegedly falsifying test data.
Officials with Orchid Cellmark -- with labs in Maryland, Texas, Tennessee
and Britain -- said the alleged falsification occurred in 20 tests for the
Los Angeles Police Department and the FBI.
The alleged tampering prompted the Los Angeles County public defender's
office to begin reviewing all pending cases involving Cellmark. Sandi
Gibbons, a spokeswoman for the Los Angeles County district attorney's
office, said that the cases involving the analyst have not gone to trial.
"Cellmark isolated the problem very quickly, they moved on it very
quickly," she said. "We don't believe that any cases are going to be
ultimately affected by this because all of the cases are being
A spokeswoman for the FBI lab at Quantico, Virginia., refused to comment
on the matter. Charlotte Word, the laboratory director for Cellmark in
Germantown, also would not comment.
But in a letter sent to the LAPD in September that was obtained by The
(Baltimore) Sun, a Cellmark official disclosed that the company had fired
analyst Sarah Blair for "professional misconduct."
Blair, in a telephone interview Wednesday with The Sun, denied the
allegations. "I explained everything to the company when I left," said
Blair. "I'm still sticking to the same story that I'm innocent."
Cellmark has analyzed evidence in several high-profile cases, including
those involving O.J. Simpson, JonBenet Ramsey, the Unabomber and the Green
River killer. Police departments throughout the world have used the lab's
(source: Associated Press)
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