[Deathpenalty]death penalty news-----CALIF., S.C., CONN., NEV.
rhalperi at mail.smu.edu
Sat Nov 27 18:07:35 CST 2004
Penalty Showdown in Peterson Trial - The jury deciding if the convicted
murderer lives or dies can expect passion on both sides.
2 weeks after convicting Scott Peterson of killing his pregnant wife and
unborn son, the same jury will begin hearing arguments in Redwood City,
Calif., on Tuesday on whether he should face death by lethal injection, or
life in prison without parole.
The penalty phase is expected to last about four days and feature friends
and relatives from both sides of the case spelling out their sense of loss
and grief. Then the 6-man, 6-woman jury will resume sequestered
If the jury calls for the death penalty for Peterson, the judge can
sentence him to death or to life in prison. If the jury calls for life in
prison, the judge must accept the recommendation.
Prosecutors are expected to open the penalty phase with tearful
testimonies and video montages and end with blunt arguments to make jurors
feel the anguish of the people Laci Peterson left behind.
Defense attorney Mark Geragos is in the peculiar position of trying to
prevent Peterson, 32, from being sentenced to death when he has insisted
throughout the five-month trial that his client didn't commit the crime.
Prosecutor Rick Distaso's presentation will call for Peterson's execution
by portraying him as a monster who destroyed his own flesh and blood
because they prevented him from living a playboy's life.
"This will be a highly emotional and dramatic presentation punctuated with
memories of Laci Peterson by her relatives, and potentially even a video
of her funeral," said criminal trial analyst Trent Copeland. "It also will
be an extraordinarily powerful and impactful several days for these
Peterson was convicted Nov. 12 of 1st-degree murder in the death of Laci
Peterson and 2nd-degree murder in the death of her fetus, making him
eligible for the death penalty.
So far, the cost of the trial, which was moved to Redwood City from
Peterson's hometown of Modesto, has reached nearly $2.5 million,
Because a court-imposed gag order remains in effect, it is hard to know
exactly what arguments defense attorneys will make to the jury to spare
The speculation is that Geragos will tell jurors that Peterson led a
crime-free life and appeal to lingering doubts in a case built largely on
He probably will call relatives and friends who will highlight their most
loving episodes with Peterson, the son of an upper-middle-class San Diego
family who was 30 when he killed his wife.
Complicating matters, however, Peterson's own attorney frequently referred
to him as a liar, a philanderer and worse in his remarks to the jury.
"Clearly, Geragos had to denigrate his client in the minds of the jurors
to justify his philandering," Copeland said. "Unfortunately, that same
characterization is the last thing this jury needs to remember as they go
forward with the penalty phase."
Prosecutors argued that Peterson strangled or smothered his 27-year-old
wife and used a new 14-foot aluminum fishing boat to dump her body into
San Francisco Bay on Christmas Eve 2002.
They also contended that a wealth of circumstantial evidence had shown
that he began plotting to kill his wife shortly after starting an affair
with a Fresno massage therapist.
The bodies of Laci and the fetus washed ashore in April 2003 near where
her husband said he went fishing on the day she disappeared.
Whether Peterson takes the stand remains to be seen, although legal
experts say it is highly unlikely.
"It's Peterson's decision, but there are many problems with him taking the
witness stand," said Loyola Law School professor Laurie Levenson.
"If he did that, the prosecution would tear into him with a vengeance."
Besides, other trial experts said, juries typically resent convicted
killers who do not own up to their crime or show remorse.
In recent days, Peterson, through his attorneys, has repeatedly tried and
failed to delay the penalty phase.
The 1st District Court of Appeals in San Francisco rejected his request
for a new jury in another county.
San Mateo County Superior Court Judge Alfred A. Delucchi denied an earlier
motion that argued that the vast publicity surrounding the case, coupled
with an unusually high assumption of guilt, tilts the jury in favor of the
In that motion, Geragos took particular exception to Delucchi's decision
after the verdict was read to allow the jurors to leave the courtroom in
full view of a cheering crowd.
"This court saw what happened, and I can only liken it to what happened in
the '50s in the South when young black men were accused of raping white
women," Geragos argued. "I thought it was something out of an old
Even if handed the ultimate penalty, Peterson probably will die of natural
causes before being executed, said Santa Clara Law School professor Gerald
"We have 640 people on death row in California, and we've had 10
executions over the past 25 years," Uelman said.
In the meantime, Delucchi advised attorneys on both sides to prepare for
heart-wrenching testimony from family and friends who until now have kept
their feelings to themselves.
"I haven't heard what the evidence is in the penalty phase," Delucchi
said. "But I know we'll have family members come in here and bare their
souls, even break down on the witness stand." (source: Los Angeles Times)
Death penalty won't bring closure
A jury will soon decide the fate of Scott Peterson. Leaving aside the
ongoing debate over the death penalty per se, as things now stand in
California the chances are almost nil that Peterson will be executed if he
is sentenced to death.
There are over 600 men and women awaiting execution in our state. Less
than a dozen such people have been executed in the past 30 years. The
appeals process takes about 20 years. A third to half of these men and
women have already had their sentences confirmed after appeal, but their
executions are not on the horizon as of now.
If carrying out a sentence brings some sort of closure to the victims'
families, it might be wiser for the sake of Laci Peterson's family that
Scott be sentenced to life without parole. Of course, I am not so arrogant
as to think I can read Laci's family members' souls and understand their
preferences, but perhaps closure would come more quickly for them with a
life sentence for Peterson.
In that way, they would not spend the rest of their lives waiting for an
execution that will probably never take place.
John Swanson----Pasadena --- In California, a death penalty sentence no
longer means the inmate will actually be put to death. This is hardly the
type of closure deserved by victims' families.
(source: Letter to the Editor, Pasadena Star News)
Attorneys challenge death sentence
Defense attorneys say a juror who helped sentence a man to death in the
fatal kidnapping and carjacking of a Galivants Ferry woman contaminated
the trial when he contacted the media about the case.
Branden Basham was sentenced Nov. 2 for his role in the abduction and
death of Alice Donovan of Galivants Ferry.
U.S. District Judge Joe Anderson has scheduled a hearing for Dec. 13 to
rule on a motion for a new trial that Bashams lawyers are expected to
Anderson set the hearing date after holding four closed meetings after
Basham was sentenced concerning a jurors contact with media during the
"The jurors were admonished a number of times not to communicate with
anyone outside the jury about the case, and one juror did," Bashams lawyer
Jack Swerling said. He plans to file for a new trial by Wednesday.
"I think the contact was totally inappropriate, but it is up to the judge
to decide," Swerling said.
Barry Donovan, Alice Donovans husband, said "I don't think it will be a
problem at all. Im comfortable with this."
Basham and his co-defendant, Chadrick Fulks, were sentenced to death.
Separate juries determined the men carjacked Donovan from the parking lot
of Wal-Mart in Conway on Nov. 14, 2002, then killed her and dumped her
body. Her body has not been found.
Fulks lawyers also have filed a motion for a new trial, in part because
one of his jurors was the widow of a man who was slain.
Anderson will decide on that motion Dec. 20.
Concerns were raised about Bashams juror after a Spartanburg-area TV
station notified court officials that a juror contacted the station to
inquire why it did not broadcast coverage of the Basham trial.
The juror contacted the station about a week before a verdict was rendered
in the trial, Assistant U.S. Attorney Scott Schools said.
He said Anderson held 4 closed hearings on the issue with the jurors, then
with representatives from the TV station.
The development will force Bashams final sentencing to be delayed until
sometime in 2005, Schools said.
(source: The State)
Serial killers execution could make Santiago death more likely
2 months ago when a jury sentenced Torrington resident Eduardo Santiago to
death for committing the murder-for-hire of a West Hartford man, it was
unlikely he would ever see the states death chamber. Even if he filed all
of the state and federal appeals in his case, no one had been executed in
this state in 44 years and the inmates on death row were years away from
exhausting their appellate rights.
But Santiagos neighbor on death row, 45-year-old serial killer Michael
Ross, has changed that for Santiago and the other 6 men sentenced to die
by lethal injection. Ross who admitted to killing 8 women in the 1980s in
this state and New York, told his attorney that he wants to abandon his
remaining options to appeal his death sentence. He is scheduled to be
executed on Jan. 26, unless legislators repeal the law.
Gov. M. Jodi Rell may postpone the execution, whether Ross wants to die or
not, for a year to give lawmakers time to discuss the law.
"She has, over the years, expressed support for the death penalty," said
Dennis Schain, Rells spokesman. "She has the power to grant a temporary
reprieve. But whether she does it depends on if there is a serious effort
in the legislature to change the death penalty."
Rell is not expected to announce her decision until the next congressional
session begins in Jan. 5, but the debate is already gaining momentum and
the opinions are not based on party lines.
"We have debated this issue before, and I will vote the same way when it
comes up again," said Rep. Rob-erta Willis, D-65. "I have consistently
opposed the death penalty for many reasons." She agrees that whe-ther or
not the state should put someone to death is a complex issue that deserves
"The state should not be in the business of taking someones life," said
state Sen. Andrew Roraback, R-30. "I have a history of not supporting the
death penalty. My vote could mean the difference in someone living or
dying and I have always believed life in prison without parole is better."
Legislators are already contemplating how to gain support to abolish the
Rep. Michael Lawlor, D-99, co-chairman of the legislatures Judiciary
Committee and an anti-death penalty proponent, said he may propose the new
legislation himself or on behalf of the committee.
"We have been trying for the last 10 years to change this," he said. "This
took many of us by surprise because obviously if Mr. Ross was not
attempting to commit suicide, we would have more time."
The death penalty statute has undergone some modifications over the years,
but it has not been abolished.
"Its been a 60-40 split but there are some new members this year who are
against it and we have quite a few prominent legislators already," Lawlor
said. "There are no innocent men on death row, and if anyone deserves the
death penalty its Mr. Ross, but this is not about him. Its about whether
the government wants to execute anyone."
The anticipated debate will be watched by neighboring northeastern states
that either have repealed the death penalty statutes or have not used the
punishment in decades.
"This will be very significant in our part of the country, because this is
not like the South where they have regular executions and we also have a
lower murder rate. Its just not part of our culture," said Lawlor. "Its a
scary prospect because once we start doing it, it will be easy to
Activists against the death penalty are planning rallies in the coming
months, including a protest scheduled for Dec. 10 at Santiagos sentencing
hearing at Hartford Superior Court by the Connecticut Network to Abolish
the Death Penalty. The network is trying to build as much support as
possible by igniting conversations about the reasons to abolish the death
penalty that include the costs of defending death penalty cases and
advocating against the future possibilities of executing innocent or
mentally incapacitated defendants.
"We do not defend Mr. Ross but we cannot support state-sponsored suicide,"
said Robert Nave, the groups executive director, who also is a
representative for Amnesty International.
The costs of housing inmates on death row at Northern Correctional
Institution, a maximum security facility, are higher because of increased
security. It costs $149 a day to house each inmate, compared to $76 a day
at other facilities, according to Brian Garnett, director of external
affairs for the state Department of Correction.
Transferred to death row on Sept. 7, Santiago and other row inmates are
segregated from the other inmates and have no special education programs.
Life on the row includes 2 hours of recreation a day, either outside or in
a resource area, Garnett said, and participating in cleaning the area.
Santiago and the other inmates are allowed to buy a television, radio,
personal hygiene products and food items from the commissary, but no more
than $50 worth a week.
"He is always separated from the other population," said Garnett.
Santiago is allowed to shower every day, have three one-hour visits each
week and make 2 collect telephone calls for 15 minutes each day. If the
law is changed and he loses his appeals, he will spend the rest of his
life following this regimen.
"I think what the governor is doing is a reflection of a point of view of
what many pro-death penalty politicians are thinking," Lawlor said.
"Philosophically, they support it, but they are not sure they want it to
(source: The Register Citizen)
Nevada Supreme Court rejects inmate's request to die
In Carson City, the state Supreme Court has denied a Clark County inmate's
request to be put to death.
In his appeal, Byron E. Crutcher said he would rather be killed than
continue serving his life sentence, saying "life in prison under the
habitual offender sentence for nonviolent crime is cruel and unusual
Crutcher was convicted of robbery of a person older than 65 and was
classified as a habitual criminal because of prior offenses.
He first petitioned District Judge Nancy Saitta to order him to be
executed by the state. She denied the appeal.
The Supreme Court rejected his appeal Wednesday, saying "no statute or
rule of court" would permit the court to change his sentence to death.
Crutcher, who has filed several court motions, said he cannot receive a
fair hearing. His said his crime was only pick-pocketing and accused the
state of turning it into a felony.
Because of his Mormon beliefs, Crutcher, 48, said he is prevented from
(source: Associated Press)
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