death penalty news----KY., USA., N.Y., MO., CONN., PENN.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Tue Nov 23 17:30:56 CST 2004
Kentucky Supreme Court blocks execution of condemned inmate
The Kentucky Supreme Court on Tuesday blocked the scheduled execution next
week of a man convicted of murdering a Lexington couple.
Attorneys for Thomas Clyde Bowling were before the state's high court
earlier Tuesday asking to have Bowling's mental capacity evaluated.
The court issued a 1-sentence order granting the request by Bowling's
attorneys. "The motion for a stay of execution in the above matter is
hereby granted pending resolution," the court wrote.
The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled it is unconstitutional to execute the
mentally retarded, and inmates have been removed from Death Row in other
states for that reason. Bowling's attorneys contend he is mentally
Bowling's attorney, Susan Balliet, said the Supreme Court's decision does
not mean Bowling is mentally retarded. Instead, Balliet said, the court
bought itself time to consider whether the issue of mental retardation can
be raised after someone is convicted and issue an opinion and ruling.
"I'm not sure how long it will take, but certainly it will take past next
Tuesday," Balliet said. "We just won a happy Thanksgiving."
After that opinion is issued, then Bowling will either be examined or
another execution date will be set as more appeals are filed, Balliet
The stay was the 2nd court victory of the day for Bowling. Earlier,
Franklin County Circuit Judge Roger Crittenden issued a temporary
injunction blocking the execution while a lawsuit filed by Bowling is
Attorneys in that case argued that Kentucky does not have in place
procedures that would guarantee the inmate does not suffer cruel and
Bowling and another death row inmate, Ralph Baze, filed the suit in
August. Bowling was convicted of a 1990 double murder in Lexington.
Earlier this month his execution was set for Nov. 30.
Balliet, a lawyer with the Department of Public Advocacy, told the Supreme
Court that evidence suggests Bowling is mentally retarded. Balliet said
that as a youth, Bowling had trouble in school and had a history of
getting failing grades. He scored low marks on an IQ test at about age 14,
"We urge the court to take enough time, to give Mr. Bowling enough time,
so that this issue can be explored in full," Balliet said.
A prosecutor from the state attorney general's office contended Bowling is
not retarded and the execution should go on as planned.
(source: Associated Press)
Since 2000, only 5 countries have reportedly executed juvenile offenders:
Congo, Iran, Pakistan, China and the United States. However, at present,
all of these countries except the United States have now renounced the
practice. Numerous international treaties prohibit the juvenile death
penalty, the most notable being the Convention on the Rights of the Child,
which only two countries-Somalia and, embarrassingly, the United
States-refused to ratify. In fact, the prohibition is so well established
that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ruled in Domingues v.
Nevada that executing those who committed crimes while under the age of 18
is a violation of a "jus cogens "-a sort of universal human rights
standard-making it akin to genocide, slavery and apartheid.
This year, the Supreme Court of the United States has the opportunity to
pull our nation into the enlightened global community. Before the court
right now is a case which challenges the constitutionality of the juvenile
death penalty. If the justices determine-as we believe they will-that the
barbaric practice of executing juvenile offenders has become so outmoded
as to be no longer in keeping with our constitution, the United States
will finally join the rest of the world in the 21st century.
The Case Against Executing Juveniles
In mid-October, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in Roper v.
Simmons, the Missouri case in which the state court found the practice of
executing juveniles to be unconstitutional under the Eighth Amendment.
Relying on the 2002 Atkins v. Virginia opinion, the Missouri Supreme Court
found that the same rationale for striking down the death penalty for
mentally retarded offenders applied to ending the death penalty for
In most areas of our lives, the law places strict prohibitions on
children. People under age 18 may not vote, serve in the military (without
parental permission), serve on juries, make medical decisions, enter into
contracts, marry (without parental permission), leave home (without
parental permission), buy cigarettes or drink alcohol. These rules have
been established precisely because we believe that adolescents are less
mature than adults and less capable of making good decisions. Why, then,
under capital punishment laws, should juveniles be found to be the most
culpable and worthy of the harshest punishment?
Our knowledge that children are different than adults has been further
confirmed by rapidly advancing technology in brain development research.
Recent studies have shown that the parts of the brain that govern
judgment, reasoning and impulse control are not fully developed until the
early 20s. Through magnetic resonance imaging, scientists have learned
that human brains continue developing until at least the early 20s. The
last part of the brain to develop-the pre-frontal cortex-governs judgment,
reasoning and impulse control. This means that while adolescents may be
capable in other areas, they cannot reason or control their behavior as
well as adults and should, therefore, not be held to the same level of
Mentally Retarded And Juvenile Offenders: The Similarities
In light of this new research, and based on legal precedence, it is hard
to imagine that the Supreme Court could do anything but uphold the
Missouri decision. The issues of executing mentally retarded people and
juvenile offenders are practically mirror images of one another. In
deciding to strike down the death penalty for mentally retarded offenders,
the court considered a wide range of information, all of which tilted in
favor of ending the practice. The court noted that 30 states, along with
the federal government and the District of Columbia, already barred
execution of mentally retarded offenders. The court also considered the
fact that public opinion-both here and abroad-was firmly against executing
mentally retarded offenders as demonstrated by public opinion polls, the
positions of dozens of professional organizations, religious institutions
and the laws of other countries. The court considered as well the fact
that only five known mentally retarded people had been executed since
1989, which was the year the justices last considered the issue.
In its ruling, the court declared that the dual justifications for the
death penalty-retribution and deterrence-made no sense when it came to
executing mentally retarded people. Because of their mental limitations,
mentally retarded people are less able to act with premeditation and
deliberation and are, therefore, less likely to be deterred by the threat
of a death sentence. In addition, their limited mental capacity makes
them, by definition, less culpable than a person with normal mental
functioning, and, therefore, less deserving of the death penalty from a
retributive point of view. This is not to say that mentally retarded
people should not be punished. They can and do receive harsh punishments,
including life without parole.
The Atkins analysis applies with equal, if not greater, force to the
juvenile death penalty. Thirty-one states forbid executing offenders under
18, which is even more states than had eliminated the death penalty for
mentally retarded people. Seven out of 10 Americans oppose the juvenile
death penalty and nearly every major religious denomination, children's
group and legal and medical association oppose the practice.
Since 1973, 22 juveniles have been executed in the United States, and 80
still remain on death row. The Supreme Court is currently set to rule on
the constitutionality of the juvenile death penalty. The actual execution
of juveniles has also become unusual in recent years. Only 7
states-Missouri, Texas, Virginia, Georgia, Oklahoma, South Carolina and
Louisiana-have actually executed a juvenile offender since 1989, although
19 states still have a juvenile death penalty on the books.
Lastly, as the Missouri Supreme Court concluded, the values of retribution
and deterrence are not served by the death penalty because juveniles,
whose brains are not fully developed and are less able to make sound and
responsible choices, are less culpable than adults and less likely to be
deterred by the death penalty. This is not to say that being under age 18
should be given a pass to commit murder. On the contrary, juveniles can be
prosecuted and convicted in adult court and sentenced to lengthy
sentences, including life without parole.
During oral argument, some of the justices, most notably Justice Kennedy,
questioned how much weight the court should give to international opinion
in making this decision. The court must be painfully aware of the fact
that the United States is virtually isolated in the world community as one
of the few nations that continues to carry out executions of juvenile
Yes, Justice Kennedy, the court should consider the human rights standards
established by the international community. It is time that we join the
rest of the world in ending this indecent practice.
(source: Op-Ed; Rachel King is staff attorney with the ACLU Capital
Assembly to hold public hearings on death penalty
The state Assembly's Democratic leadership announced Tuesday the chamber
would hold two public hearings in December and January to consider the
future of the death penalty in New York.
The move, ordered by Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, effectively puts on
hold an attempt by Republican Gov. George Pataki and the state Senate's
GOP majority to quickly get the death penalty law back in operation.
In June, the state's top court ruled the law was unconstitutional as
crafted by Pataki and the Legislature in 1995. With Pataki's backing, the
state Senate in August adopted legislation to correct what the court had
said were defects in the original law. Silver refused to consider that
On Tuesday, Silver said public hearings on the death penalty would be held
Dec. 15 in New York City and Jan. 25 in Albany.
Since the death penalty was reinstated in New York in 1995, 7 men have
been sentenced to die. None were executed.
While Silver is a proponent of the death penalty, many of his Democratic
colleagues in the chamber are opposed.
Supreme Court tosses conviction and death sentence in Joplin slaying
In Jefferson City, the Missouri Supreme Court on Tuesday threw out a man's
conviction and death sentence in a 1998 killing in Joplin that prosecutors
said was racially motivated.
Gary Black, who is white, was sentenced to death after his conviction of
first-degree murder in the death of Jason Johnson, a Missouri Southern
State College football player who was black.
The court's decision Tuesday reversed that conviction and ordered that
Black receive a new trial.
In seeking a new trial, Black's attorneys argued his public defenders
failed to cross-examine witnesses about inconsistent testimony. That was a
crucial mistake, they said, because their testimony concerned whether
Black acted after deliberation, in a fit of rage or in self-defense.
The court said Tuesday that Black conceded he killed Johnson, 28, of St.
Louis, leaving how the killing occurred the main issue. If the jury found
Black killed Johnson without deliberation or intent to kill, he could not
have been found guilty of 1st-degree murder.
"Defense counsel's failure to impeach these key witnesses with their prior
statements about the incident in which Mr. Black stabbed the victim was
ineffective," the court said in an opinion written by Judge Laura Denvir
Stith. "It also was so prejudicial as to undermine this court's confidence
in the outcome of the trial."
Prosecutors said the October 1998 stabbing was racially motivated. Johnson
had bumped into Black's girlfriend in a convenience store, and the woman
said she mistakenly believed Johnson was making a pass at her.
The woman left the store and told Black about the incident, and he then
followed Johnson in his car, confronted him and stabbed him, according to
court records. While following Johnson and after the stabbing, Black made
racial slurs, the court's opinion said.
Prosecutors argued that evidence showed Black deliberately pursued the man
to kill him. Black's attorneys, however, said he killed Johnson in
self-defense or in the course of a fight, not as a predetermined plan.
Melinda Pendergraph, part of the state public defender's office who
handled Black's appeal, said Black, now 49, a Joplin native, is
incarcerated at the maximum-security state prison in Potosi. She expects
Black to be transferred to the Jasper County jail to await a new trial.
Jasper County Circuit Judge Jon Dermott had ruled against giving Black a
new trial. That decision was appealed and led to Tuesday's ruling.
The case is Gary Black, Appellant, v. State of Missouri, Respondent;
ON THE NET----Supreme Court: http://www.courts.mo.gov/sup/index.nsf
(source: Associated Press)
Rell: Lawyers looking at execution delay options
Gov. M. Jodi Rell told The Associated Press Tuesday she is exploring
alternatives that could postpone the planned execution of convicted serial
killer Michael Ross until lawmakers decide whether to revisit the state's
Her office has informally asked outside attorneys, including an expert in
constitutional law, to examine Connecticut's constitution and applicable
"We are actually looking at our options and what's available to us," Rell
The Republican governor, who has said she supports the death penalty in
heinous cases, said she hopes to have answers in the next couple weeks.
Rell has no power to commute Ross' death sentence. But under a
little-known section of the state constitution - Article 4, Section 13 -
the governor could grant a reprieve that would postpone Ross' planned Jan.
26 execution until after the "next" legislative session. That would give
state lawmakers - who return to the Capitol on Jan 5 - a chance to
eliminate Connecticut's capital punishment law and possibly stop what
would be the state's 1st execution since 1960.
Ross, 45, is on death row for killing 4 young women in eastern Connecticut
in the 1980s. He has admitted killing 8 women in Connecticut and New York.
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-East Haven, co-chairman of the legislature's
Judiciary Committee, said he believes the provision in the state
constitution might allow Rell to postpone Ross' execution until 2006, if
she waits to act until after the legislature begins meeting in January.
Rell has not said whether she would use the power of reprieve. Her
spokesman, Dennis Schain, has said it would depend on whether there is a
serious effort in the legislature to change the death penalty.
The governor said Tuesday that she is still uncertain what would count as
a "serious effort." She said that is part of what her office is reviewing.
"I don't know what we need. I don't know what kind of indication," said
Rell said she has other questions about the provision, such as whether the
constitution allows her to grant the reprieve on her own or whether Ross
would have to request one from her.
Lawlor said he expects a death penalty debate this session, including a
bill to abolish the act.
"If that's what the governor is looking for, that is what will probably
happen," he said. "There's going to be a debate about the death penalty,
that's for sure."
Given the fact that executions are so rare in Connecticut and in the
Northeast, Lawlor - a death penalty opponent - said he believes few
politicians want Ross put to death on their watch.
"If it does happen, the only reason he'll be executed is because he wants
to commit suicide," Lawlor said. "I think that by itself will generate a
lot of discussion."
The state Supreme Court has upheld the death sentence, but Ross also could
stop the execution by pursuing a U.S. Supreme Court review, a pardon or a
petition of habeas corpus.
His lawyer, T.R. Paulding, said Ross has no plans to do that.
"It is not suicide. It is absolutely not suicide. It is absolutely not
motivated by a death wish," he said. "This is an intelligent, cognitive,
reasoned, well-thought decision he's made over the last decade."
Paulding speculated that if Rell granted a reprieve and the legislature
decided to abolish the death penalty, lawmakers would have to make the new
law retroactive to affect Ross.
(source: Associated Press)
Execution date nears for killer of 13
The mother of a man scheduled to die next week for a 1982 rampage that
left 13 people dead - including five of his own young children - is
seeking a last-minute reprieve as prison officials prepare to execute him.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled against George E. Banks, 62, in June and his
execution is scheduled for Dec. 2. Only three people have been executed in
Pennsylvania in the past 42 years, the most recent in 1999.
Lawyers for Banks' mother, Mary Yelland, say severe mental illness
prevents him from making rational decisions about his case. They filed an
appeal with the state Supreme Court on his behalf last week, the 4th time
the state's highest court has reviewed the case. Another action was
expected to be filed in Luzerne County on Wednesday.
"It's our position that he's not competent at this point in time to make
those decisions," said defense attorney Al Flora Jr. of Wilkes-Barre.
Flora argues that "chronically psychotic" defendants such as Banks should
not be executed because of the U.S. Constitution's ban on cruel and
unusual punishment, just as the U.S. Supreme Court has said the mentally
retarded cannot be executed.
"Given the documented length and severity of his mental illness, in light
of evolving standards of decency, the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on
execution of the insane and mentally retarded should be expanded to
incorporate the severely mentally ill," the lawyers wrote in asking the
state Supreme Court to issue a stay.
Luzerne County prosecutor Scott Gartley said he would file a response
Wednesday opposing Banks' request for a delay.
"Because you're talking about the death penalty, I'm sure that the courts
are going to look very seriously at his argument. As far as our office
goes, we're going to try to argue to the courts that no further stays
should be afforded. But certainly the judges may decide that some form of
stay is warranted while they look at the issue more closely," he said.
Gov. Ed Rendell, who began his political career as Philadelphia's district
attorney, called Banks' death warrant "very, very appropriate."
"When I campaigned I told people I was for the death penalty in the most
severe cases - and I believe this fits into the 'most severe case'
category,'" Rendell said Tuesday.
Banks, a state prison guard with a history of violence, used an AR-15
semiautomatic rifle to kill five of his children, ages 1 to 6, along with
four current or former girlfriends, a daughter of one of the girlfriends,
the mother and nephew of another girlfriend, and a teenage bystander on
Sept. 25, 1982, in Wilkes-Barre.
He barricaded himself inside a friend's house but was persuaded to come
out by a bogus police radio broadcast claiming that some of the children
were still alive but needed blood and organ transplants from their father
to survive, Flora said.
Banks said after his arrest that he acted to spare his own children the
racist abuse he had suffered as a biracial child growing up in
Wilkes-Barre. He was declared mentally competent to stand trial, where he
testified that police had killed some of the victims and displayed gory
photographs of the victims to jurors.
While in prison he has tried to kill himself four times, made suicide
threats and engaged in "religious fasts" that once required officials to
force-feed him, according to court records. A defense psychiatric report
said Banks "acts on his psychotic thinking in dramatic and
life-threatening ways, which raises serious questions about his competency
to make decisions for himself."
After a troubled childhood and a stint in the Army, Banks was convicted of
felonious assault with intent to kill and attempted robbery in 1962 and
served seven years in prison. That sentence was commuted by Gov. Milton
Shapp in 1974.
Medical records describe his "chronic and unremitting" symptoms of chronic
thought disorder, including paranoid suspiciousness, delusions, belief in
mind-reading, messages received from the television, excessive religious
preoccupation, food phobias, and racing and obsessive thoughts.
Medication and hospitalizations have not resulted in any long-term
improvement in his condition, according to his doctors.
Banks had 10 days after Oct. 5, the day Rendell scheduled his execution,
to seek clemency. Defense lawyers said that during that time, prison
officials noted he was starving himself, talking at his cell door,
complaining about a conspiracy and exhibiting other disturbing behavior.
The execution would be performed at Rockview State Prison in Bellefonte.
Execution protocol in Pa.
Pennsylvania death row inmates are executed at Rockview State Prison in
Bellefonte, where the Department of Corrections maintains its two-story
execution complex in a former field hospital.
- Condemned prisoners may select a final meal from a prison-supplied
- An unidentified team of medically qualified individuals injects the
fatal cocktail containing a paralytic agent and a fast-acting barbiturate.
- 12 witnesses, including as many as 6 news reporters, observe the moment
of death. Spots are reserved for The Associated Press and Radio
Pennsylvania. The other 6 press spots are chosen at random, with at least
1 witness from a radio or television station that broadcasts in the county
where the crime occurred and at least one from a newspaper that circulates
- Afterward, prison officials release any last words the inmate has
dictated to prison staff.
- Pennsylvania has executed three people since reinstating the death
penalty in 1978. All 3 were "volunteers" who had given up their appeals:
Gary Heidnik in 1999 and Leon Moser and Keith Zettlemoyer in 1995.
- The state's death row currently comprises 224 inmates.
(source: Pa. Corrections Department)
(source for both: Associated Press)
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