[Deathpenalty]death penalty news----MONT., S.C., MISS., USA
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Nov 27 17:59:57 CST 2004
Death penalty opponent to speak at Carroll
In Helena, Sister Helen Prejean, author of the book "Dead Man Walking,"
will speak Tuesday at Carroll College.
Prejean will speak on "Social Justice/Environmental Justice - Alliance of
Hope." The free talk will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the lower level of the
Carroll College campus center.
Prejean, long a death-penalty opponent and advocate for death-row inmates,
will appear in Helena at the behest of the Rev. Jerry Lowney, a Carroll
Lowney, a priest, works with death-row inmates, at Deer Lodge Prison.
Lowney said he hopes to raise awareness about social justice and the
application of Christian teachings in difficult situations.
As the founder of Survive, a victims' advocacy group, she counsels inmates
on death row, as well as families of murder victims.
(source: Billings Gazette)
DNA fee angers inmates' families
Teresa Petty-Dawkins of Inman saw red this fall when she learned prison
officials collecting a new DNA fee had taken 10 % of the money left to her
imprisoned husband by his late grandmother.
"It bothered me a lot," she said. "It's like they are punishing the
Families of South Carolina inmates say they are upset prison officials are
dipping into inmate accounts to help pay for a DNA database used by
investigators to crack unsolved cases.
The $250 fee imposed by lawmakers is charged regardless of an inmate's
ability to pay and is over and above court-imposed fines, restitution and
The director of the state's prison system defended the way the fee is
assessed and said the Legislature gave his agency no other choice.
"The statute clearly requires us to get the fee from the inmates," said
Jon Ozmint, the state's prisons director.
"The reason we're doing this is if we don't do it the Legislature is going
to come back and tell us we're going to have to do it. And it's going to
be much worse and much less fair."
The DNA database is used much like a fingerprint bank, matching suspects
to evidence from crimes both old and new. The database, which has 35,000
samples, has already helped break cases in South Carolina, said Robert
Stewart, chief of the State Law Enforcement Division.
The database, linked with others across the country, has also been used to
clear suspects, he said.
"We consider it to be of vital importance to public safety of citizens and
to the criminal justice system," he said. "DNA clears as many people as it
But families of inmates say they believe it is unfair to tap the inmate
accounts used by families to send money for toiletries, snacks and other
necessities. Prison officials withdraw 10 % of each account balance every
month until the $250 is paid.
"The money that is sent to prisoners' accounts is sent there by family
members to provide their incarcerated loved one with basic necessities
that SCDC does not provide, such as cosmetics and foodstuffs," said Pamela
Simpson, whose husband is at Perry Correctional Institution in southern
"This money is in effect a gift from the family to the inmate, and the
state of South Carolina should not use this money to pay for DNA testing,"
Sen. Mike Fair, who chairs the Senate Corrections and Penology Committee,
said he's comfortable with the inmates paying. "If the families don't want
to put money in the trust fund, that's their call to make," he said.
"It is the policy of this state to look out as much as we can for
taxpayers," he said. "This is a public safety tool that would be
irresponsible, with the technology available, not to do this."
DNA sampling of inmates and the fee began in 1994. At first, only
convicted sex offenders were required by law to have their DNA sampled and
to pay the fee. Ozmint said only inmates with jobs were assessed the fee.
In 2000, lawmakers expanded the program to include all violent offenders.
And this year, lawmakers expanded the program to include anyone convicted
of a felony or sentenced to five years or longer.
As a result, it now covers the vast majority of the state's 23,000
inmates, and applies to those on probation as well as juvenile offenders,
Ozmint said the law mentions the idea of tapping wages as a means of
collecting the fee, but he said state law does not allow the prison system
to withhold a part of wages.
That leaves only the inmates' trust accounts as a means of paying the
charge, he said. He said he thinks it is "drastically unfair" to collect
the fee only from inmates with jobs.
Dollie Morrall of Beaufort, president of the prisoner family support group
Family Link, said that while the collection system is more fair than the
previous one, many families don't like it.
"They are offended by this," she said. "It's a hard burden for them to
Ozmint said that if the Legislature is asked to rewrite the law, he fears
lawmakers may order the $250 be taken in one lump sum from prisoners'
accounts, which could be devastating to inmates and their families.
Sen. Ralph Anderson, a Greenville Democrat, said he thinks taking money
from the inmate accounts is wrong.
"Most prisoners are from poor families," he said. "And to take the little
bit that they have, it's a little bit like Robin Hood in reverse. If we're
going to require it, I think we should put up the money."
Petty-Dawkins, whose husband is in McCormick Correctional Institution,
said the accounts are the only means families have of helping their loved
ones purchase essentials such as soap and food.
"I know other women who are struggling to send $10 or $15 a month," she
said. "It's just not fair to the families."
During the last fiscal year, Stewart said, officials collected $425,312 in
DNA fees. That amount is about 20 % of what is owed, he said.
Ozmint said about $5 of the $250 is retained by the prisons to pay for the
cost of collecting the DNA samples. The rest goes to SLED, he said, to pay
for testing, analyzing and storing the samples.
Stewart said it will cost about $1.5 million to analyze the DNA samples
from all the inmates tested this year as a result of the expanded law.
"The more people we have in it, the more successful it will be," he said.
(source: Greenville News)
Mississippi death row case going before U.S. Supreme Court
Attorneys for a death row inmate will argue before the U.S. Supreme Court
on Monday that Mississippi juries should be able to convict defendants in
capital cases of the lesser crimes of murder or manslaughter.
Attorneys for Marlon Howell have said in briefs that Howell deserves a new
trial because his Union County jury was not allowed to consider convicting
him of a lesser crime rather than capital murder, while carries a maximum
penalty of death.
Capital murder in Mississippi is defined as murder committed along with
the commission of another crime; in Howell's case, robbery.
Murder, which Howell refers to as "simple murder" in his legal briefs,
carries a maximum life sentence. Manslaughter is punishable by up to 20
years in prison.
Howell wants a new trial for the killing of a newspaper delivery man.
Howell was convicted in 2001 of capital murder and sentenced to death for
killing David Pernell, 61, during a robbery. Pernell, a retired postman
who delivered the Northeast Mississippi Daily Journal, was killed after he
was flagged down on a city street in New Albany.
2 other men charged in the case pleaded guilty to lesser charges and are
serving prison terms. Howell was accused of being the gunman. Howell had
contended he was in Corinth when the incident occurred.
Howell contends the U.S. Constitution - in death penalty cases - provides
for lesser offense instructions to juries. He has relied on the Supreme
Court's 1980 decision in an Alabama case to support his appeal.
In 1980, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled state courts cannot refuse to
instruct a jury on lesser offenses in a capital murder trial, such as
murder, for example - assuming the evidence would support such a verdict.
The justices said the failure to give the jury a 3rd option to convict on
a lesser offense would seem to enhance the chance of an unwarranted
Howell argues that capital murder cannot be proven without a murder being
committed and the jury should be instructed on both. Howell also had
wanted the jury instructed on culpable negligent manslaughter. Both were
denied at trial and rejected by the Mississippi Supreme Court.
Prosecutors argue the 1980 case does not apply to Mississippi law. They
said the Alabama law prohibited lesser-included offense instructions in
capital murder cases but permitted them in others.
Prosecutors said Mississippi allows lesser-included offense instructions
when supported by the evidence. However, they said the evidence does not
support Howell's claim for the instructions.
Mississippi prosecutors also said Howell was claiming for the first time
that the judge's refusal violated federal law. They said rules require
defendants to present any federal claims for consideration in state court
before raising them in federal court.
Howell, however, argued Mississippi and federal laws regarding the jury
instructions were "virtually identical."
Howell's attorney Billy Richardson of Fayetteville, N.C., said: "In
capital cases, jurors need to have the option to look at all aspects of
homicide, not just 1st-degree murder and not guilty."
Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood, who tried the Union County case
while district attorney, will present the state's case against Howell to
the Supreme Court.
"Since the defendant claimed he had an alibi and did not commit the
vicious murder, I hope the U.S. Supreme Court will follow the opinion of
the Mississippi Supreme Court that there was no other reason for the
murder, other than robbery," Hood said.
N.C. lawyers take death row appeal to U.S. Supreme Court----Case asks if
juries must be informed of options under lesser convictions
A Fayetteville lawyer has been named counsel and another member of his
firm will present oral arguments to the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday in a
case about whether juries hearing death penalty cases should be told about
lesser conviction options.
Billy Richardson and 2 colleagues will be in Washington to represent
Marlon Howell, a condemned killer on Mississippi's death row.
The Supreme Court approved naming Richardson to Howell's legal team
earlier this month.
Howell's previous lawyers had argued that Howell was convicted of capital
murder because jurors were faced with the decision of sentencing him to
death or setting him free. The trial courts erred by not instructing the
jury on the lesser included offense of simple murder and manslaughter, the
lawyers said. The maximum sentence he could have received under the lesser
offense would have been life in prison.
Howell said Mississippi courts violated his constitutional rights of due
process and against cruel and unusual punishment.
Mississippi's attorney general contends the U.S. Supreme Court does not
have jurisdiction in the case.
"This case has huge implications in 2 respects," Richardson said. "Number
one is that in capital cases, jurors need to have the option to look at
all aspects of homicide, not just first-degree murder and not guilty. The
second one is that the Supreme Court needs to keep its power of review to
ensure that justice is done throughout this country. No court should ever
abdicate its power."
Howell was convicted of killing a newspaper deliveryman in May 2000 during
an attempted robbery. Howell denied shooting the man. Richardson said he
believes him, based on factors including a polygraph test he had
administered during a visit with Howell at Mississippi State Penitentiary
Richardson got involved after Howell's sister contacted him because of the
book and 1996 television miniseries "Innocent Victims." Both covered
Richardson's work on the case of Army sergeant Tim Hennis, who was
convicted of killing an Air Force captain's wife and her two young
daughters in Fayetteville in 1985. Hennis was initially sentenced to
death, but investigative work by Richardson and others turned up new
evidence and rebuttal witnesses.
The plea for help from Howell's family moved Richardson's 18-year-old
daughter, Caroline, who was working in his law office this summer.
Richardson and colleagues Ronnie Mitchell and Chuck Brittain have been
preparing for the case since learning the court decided to hear arguments
on Monday instead of months from now.
"We've worked day and night for 10 days," Richardson said.
Mitchell will have 20 minutes to state the defense team's position to the
Supreme Court, followed by Mississippi's presentation. Richardson and
Brittain will take notes and prepare Mitchell's 10-minute rebuttal.
They've prepared for Monday's session by participating in 2 mock trial
sessions with law professors at Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill.
(source: Associated Press)
Chief Justice Won't Return to the Court This Year
Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist, who missed the Supreme Court's
November argument session while being treated for thyroid cancer, will be
absent for the December session as well, the court announced on Friday.
Kathleen Arberg, the court's public information officer, said Chief
Justice Rehnquist was continuing to receive chemotherapy and radiation
treatments as an outpatient and was meeting with his law clerks and court
officials at his home. Ms. Arberg said she had no information on when the
80-year-old chief justice might return to the court.
Given the apparent seriousness of his illness, there has been widespread
speculation that the chief justice will announce his retirement sometime
this winter. Jan. 7 will mark his 33rd anniversary on the court.
The court hears arguments in 12 cases over a 2-week period during most
months of its term. The two-week session that begins on Monday will be the
last of the year.
Justice John Paul Stevens, who is presiding over the arguments in the
chief justice's absence, announced at the beginning of each day of
arguments during the November session that Chief Justice Rehnquist would
participate in the decisions by reading the briefs and argument
transcripts in each case. During the chief justice's monthlong absence
from the court, he has taken part from home in the court's decisions on
which new cases to accept for review.
Whenever a justice does not participate, for any reason, in the
consideration of a case, that fact is noted on the court's weekly list of
orders, and there has been no indication with respect to Chief Justice
Rehnquist. Presumably he plans to take part in the cases on the December
calendar as well.
(source: New York Times)
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